It’s October, which means Halloween decorations are up, the leaves are changing color, and pumpkin spice has once again dominated menus as the favorite seasonal flavor. According to Technomic’s MenuMonitor, Pumpkin Spice menu incidence increased 42% in non-alcoholic beverages since last year, revealing that customer demand is as strong as ever.
Starbucks, Panera Bread, Dunkin Donuts and Peet’s Coffee and Tea are all competing with their own Pumpkin Spice Latte and promoting reformatted “better for you” recipes. Starbucks made headlines by removing the artificial caramel from their famous latte and incorporating real pumpkin. While this has tamed the intense saccharine flavor and changed the color to an authentic orange, customers can’t get enough of the often-Instagrammed PSL. In addition to its own pumpkin latte, Dunkin Donuts has stepped up its game with several new pumpkin-themed products, including k-cups and a macchiato to complement pumpkin donuts and muffins.
Of course, Beverage isn’t the only category experiencing pumpkin mania. Einstein Bagels re-introduced its pumpkin bagel and Bruegger’s Bagels is menuing a pumpkin bagel with pumpkin cream cheese. Despite cooler temperatures, several sweet shops are serving pumpkin-infused ice cream products: Baskin Robbins has rolled out its Piñata Pumpkin Patch Cake, CREAM has introduced pumpkin ice cream, and 16 Handles has upped the ante with a crushed graham cracker cookie mix-in for its pumpkin ice cream.
While restaurants across segments have moved pumpkin spice to the top of their menus, retail establishments and home cooks are taking note of the pumpkin craze as well. Convenience stores are dispensing coffee flavors with fall flair; supermarkets are busy stocking specialty seasonal products; and consumers are creating pumpkin spice concoctions like crazy, with the help of Pinterest and recipe-driven blogs.
While 2015 has been a year of new flavor profiles, exciting spices, and increasingly ethnic offerings, it’s comforting to see that some things haven’t changed.