Pumpkin Spice: The US flavour trend has landed

Posted by Cat Woods on 26th September 2018

THE demand for Pumpkin Spice seems sure to hit Australian cafes, retailers and producers at full steam.

Products with pumpkin flavouring in the US hit $US7 million in sales for the year by the end of the last month, according to Nielsen research.

In the previous 12 months, nearly 40 per cent of American consumers said they bought something pumpkin-spice related.

It all began with Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte (affectionately known as the PSL), which now has its own Twitter account.

In Australia, Pumpkin Spice Lattes are rolling out on 25 September until 31 October.

“This is promotional. It depends on how sales go to determine whether it continues,” says a customer service rep from Starbucks Australia.

What’s in this suddenly ubiquitous, in-demand flavouring?

Typically, Pumpkin Spice mixes don’t involve real pumpkin at all.

Most blends include ground cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves and synthetic flavourings of browned butter and sugar to mimic the scent of baked pumpkin pie.

LUTTE is an Australian-based company with a vision to provide a replacement of coffee that is delicious and has health benefits.

It sells a Pumpkin Spice Latte blend alongside turmeric and beetroot latte flavours. Herbie’s Spices offer Pumpkin Pie Spice, Chobani makes a Pumpkin Spice flavoured Greek yoghurt, Kellogg’s does Mini Wheats in Pumpkin Spice flavour and Pinnacle Vodka offers an adults-only Pumpkin Pie flavour.

Non-food items include giftware store Ishka’s Pumpkin Spice candle, pet food containing pumpkin flavour and pumpkin spice essential oil.

“I think it’s a fad, like coconut water. It’s a fad that will come and go,” says Dr Ajay Shah, Food Science and Technical Consultant.

“Pumpkin has always been a big thing in America, but we don’t consume as much pumpkin in Australia and mostly in soups during winter.

“For Australians, I’m not sure the demand will match the northern hemisphere because pumpkin isn’t typically a Christmas food for us like it is for them.

“I also believe that since vegan foods are on the rise, pumpkin lattes are ideally marketed as a healthy vegan beverage,” says Shah.

American consumers are not purely focused on Pumpkin Spice though, with sales of fresh pumpkin hitting $121 million last year, an increase of 5 per cent in dollar sales from the year prior.

Food categories including pumpkin as an ingredient reached $1.14 billion in the US last year, an annual increase of 3.5% on the previous year and 20% up on two years’ before.

Is it a fad?

Is Pumpkin Spice a trend that drives demand and sales purely because it’s only available during select “holiday” times of the year, attracting novelty value?

If the year-on-year increase in demand for foods containing genuine pumpkin, as well as pumpkin spice flavoured products is to be acknowledged, food producers, retailers and consumers can’t dismiss the research and reports even if Australian supermarkets are not yet crowded with orange packaging.

Whether you believe the hype or not, joining the queue for a Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte on 25 September might be the most future-forward move you make this year.

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