Pumpkin spice season can't come early enough these days in the food industry. Pumpkin beers and Starbucks' Pumpkin Spice Lattes alike rushed to jumpstart the fall season this year, and they aren't alone. Food and beverage makers looking to compete with Starbucks or attract new interest from pumpkin pie fans have stuffed grocery store aisles with new launches in recent years, and 2013 will be no exception.
Some may call these pumpkin products innovations, and some may call them flavor lemmings jumping into a crowded market. All of them have suited up in autumn colors, though, and attempted to spice up the food world with cinnamon, clove and nutmeg sensations that consumers have been trained to expect.
Here's a list of 10 pumpkin products we never expected to see, and they range from questionable ideas at best to concepts that may give grandma's pumpkin pie a run for its money:
1. FROSTED PUMPKIN PIE POP-TARTS
Company: The Kellogg Company
Kellogg's famous toaster pastries picked a pumpkin flavor way back in 2010, and the pumpkin pie breakfast buddies have made subsequent return trips as an annual offering. As far as easy-to-prepare alternatives to home-baked pies, you really can't beat them.
2. PUMPKIN SPICE M&M's
M&M's jumped into the ring with a pumpkin spice flavor this year, and Target will be selling them exclusively. The move marks a rare switch-up for Mars' well-known little candies, not just coating their chocolate around nuts or pretzel bits, but actually throwing in some new seasoning.
3. PUMPKIN PIE SPICE PRINGLES
Company: The Kellogg Company
When Kellogg bought Pringles in 2012, the company also bought this limited-release edition of the world's best-known chips that come in tubes. It's hard to imagine families serving these up around the holidays instead of pumpkin pie, but the novelty alone should have been enough to prompt some curiosity-driven purchases.
4. PINNACLE PUMPKIN PIE VODKA
Well, if you can convince drinkers to mix up vodka cocktails with the savory essence of nutmeg, you will know you have an audience for this spirit. Pinnacle brought Pumpkin Pie back this year, along with Peppermint Bark and Peachberry Cobbler, so they must have found a few customers willing to drink their fall desserts.
5. THOMAS' PUMPKIN SPICE BAGELS
Company: Bimbo Bakeries USA
This Bimbo brand is attempting a double play in the breakfast market, releasing pumpkin spice bagels, as well as pumpkin spice English muffins. Will anyone step up with pumpkin toast to complete a breakfast bread trifecta?
6. BOLTHOUSE FARMS PUMPKIN SPICE LATTE DRINK
Company: Campbell Soup Company
Bolthouse's new seasonal release seems like a clear play to urge Starbucks customers to stay home and get their pumpkin spice fix from a bottle. Consumers won't get the same full coffeehouse experience of getting their names misspelled on their cups in creative ways, but they will get a lot more pumpkin drink for their dollars.
7. RITA'S PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE CREAM ICE
Company: Rita's Franchise Company
Rita's Italian Ice has carved out some space among frozen treat options with its pumpkin cheese cake launch. This one really is a limited released, though, with a 20-day span of availability and expiration date set for Sept. 24.
8. PUMPKIN SPICE DOUGHNUTS
Company: Krispy Kreme Doughnuts
Krispy Kreme's Pumpkin Cheesecake and Pumpkin Spice doughnuts, meanwhile, are being sold through Nov. 27. The latter is an annual staple for the company, but cheesecake represents new territory this year, even if it doesn't join its pumpkin spice partners in grocery stores.
9. PUMPKIN SPICE KAHLUA
Company: Pernod Ricard USA
For pumpkin spice latte lovers who prefer a little booze as they sip, Kahlua has branched out with a new edition of its rum and coffee liqueur. This one probably makes a little more sense than a pumpkin vodka conceptually. It's also a seasonal excuse for drinkers who want to make their morning cup of joe a little more exciting.
10. JET-PUFFED PUMPKIN SPICE MALLOWS
Company: Kraft Foods Group
It doesn't take a genius to see the mad genius behind Kraft's thought process here. It's a pumpkin spice marshmallow that delivers some extra character on its own—or in any number of baking projects, such Rice Krispies Treats, fall cookies or other mallow-filled snacks.
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