Published on: October 29, 2014by Kate McMahon
You can run, but you can’t hide, from Pumpkin Spice. It’s peak season for the sweet cinnamon- sugar-nutmeg flavor/scent that has infiltrated scores of products and is the talk of Twitter and late-night comedians.
It even has a hashtag: #pumpkinization.
You can credit, or blame, Starbucks for this seasonal obsession, which began with the October 2004 launch of its now iconic Pumpkin Spice Latte. Sales increased 11% the following month, and Starbucks baristas have since whipped up more than 200 million servings of the frothy treat. Cementing its celebrity status, TheRealPSL debuted on Twitter in August and now has 95,000 followers.
On grocery shelves this month, you will find pumpkin spice or pumpkin flavor in such classic products as Pepperidge Milano cookies, Thomas’ bagels, Oreo cookies, Kraft’s Jell-O, Pillsbury Grands, Quaker Instant Oatmeal, M&Ms, Welch’s juice, Pop Tarts, Jif Whips and Chobani Yogurt. (You need to read the ingredient list to determine if there is indeed pumpkin, or pumpkin spice, in all of these products).
On the beverage front, Dunkin’ Donuts has a Pumpkin Spice coffee, McDonalds sells a Pumpkin Spice Latte and a 670-calorie Pumpkin Shake, and Coffee Mate peddles a Pumpkin Spice creamer.
There are at least two pumpkin spice vodkas, but the real action is in the beer aisle. Sales of pumpkin flavored beers have grown by more than 1,500 per cent in the last 10 years, and the number of brands has jumped from two in 2000 to 65 last year. (The segment leader continues to be Blue Moon Pumpkin Ale, with roughly 65% of the market.)
But the hands-down leader in retail pumpkin-mania has to be Trader Joe’s, which is showcasing more than 60 products ranging from private label pumpkin croutons to dog biscuits and Pumpkin O cereal.
Which begs the question – when will American consumers max out on all things pumpkin spice?
The answer is now, if you watch the Pumpkin Spice Pro and Con list by Jimmy Fallon, the YouTube clip by John Oliver or the “rant” by Jimmy Kimmel, who wondered aloud when the Pumpkin Spice iPhone 6 would debut.
But many trend prognosticators and taste experts quoted in mainstream media believe that prevalence of pumpkin and pumpkin spice is here to stay, as it evokes nostalgia about the fall season and the holidays and the flavor is appealing to all age groups.
I would have to disagree. I think adding pumpkin spice and whipped cream to a latte, at 380 calories and 40% of your recommended daily saturated fat allowance per serving, is a pricey way to ruin a good cup of coffee. I tried pumpkin flavored beer and couldn’t get past the first sip. I believe introducing pumpkin spice flavored dog chews, beef jerky and even Oreos is a waste of design, manufacturing and marketing budgets for a seasonal fad. Do we really need a pumpkin spice Milano or M&Ms? The time and money would be better spent on creating tasty, healthier year-round offerings.
I’m with Jimmy Fallon who said that while the Pumpkin Spice Latte may make Starbucks smell like a bakery, the down side is “it makes your breath smell like you ate a Yankee Candle.”
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