- Despite public complaints about a summer debut of its ubiquitous Pumpkin Space Latte, Starbucks has seen record sales of the fall beverage, a new report shows.
- According to Nielsen research, on the week ending Aug. 25, products with pumpkin flavoring hit nearly $7 million in sales, much of it from lovers of the Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice coffee beverage. That’s up nearly 10% in earnings and more than 7% in volume from the same time last year, Fast Company reports.
- Consumers are after more than just pumpkin-spice-flavored java. Products from pumpkin-spice potato chips to pumpkin-scented deodorant are on the upswing, with annual sales of pumpkin-related items reaching $488.8 million in the past year. According to Fast Company, this is an all-time high during the past half-decade.
With sales in both dollars and volume at all-time highs, the push to sell pumpkin spice and pumpkin-flavored food and beverages in autumn isn’t likely to let up anytime soon. Nielsen reports that nearly 40% of consumers said last year they bought something pumpkin-spice related, so food manufacturers, restaurants and coffee shops are smart to add the fall flavor to their menu — as much as consumers might roll their eyes.
And just like Christmas, Halloween and other seasonal segments, it seems retailers just can’t help themselves but to push pumpkin spice's debut earlier and earlier. How this affects overall sales for pumpkin spice items remains to be seen, but so far things are looking promising.
Starbucks wasn’t the only retailer to roll out the pumpkin before consumers had put the beach gear away. Dunkin’ Donuts also introduced its pumpkin-spice coffees before Labor Day, as well as of course, pumpkin-flavored donuts.
Not to be satisfied with just pumpkin inspired coffee, Starbucks is offering new cookie straws filled with chocolate and pumpkin spice. At the grocery store, consumers can find Pumpkin Spice Frosted Flakes, pumpkin spice Cheerios, Lester’s Fixins Pumpkin Pie soda, and even Pumpkin Pie Pop-Tarts. These items certainly wouldn’t seem to meet the call from millennial consumers for healthier and more natural food products, but the lure of that fall flavor is worth indulging in.
Most of us associate good feelings with the flavor. According to 2008 statistics from NPD Group, pumpkin pie is the second most popular in the U.S., just behind apple pie. However, pumpkin pie is only eaten during the fall and winter holidays, while apple pie is consumed all year long. This could give consumers a continual nostalgic tie-in for the pumpkin spice flavor. Its limited availability also could mean consumers don’t take it for granted.
While banking on a bump in sales of all things pumpkin spice related, food companies would do well to note that many consumers are looking for the actual pumpkin experience. Nielsen reports sales of fresh pumpkin hit $121 million last year, up slightly more than 5% in dollar sales and 4.6% in volume sales from the year before. Food categories that include pumpkin as an ingredient also are flying off shelves at a healthy rate. Nielsen reports sales of these items totaled $1.14 billion last year, up 3.5% year-over-year and up 20% in the past two years.
But before food companies start adding pumpkin ingredients to everything, they should note that not every idea has sparked sales. Both pumpkin-inspired yogurt and desserts have seen dips in sales, while pumpkin bread saw its highest ever year-over-year sales increase, Nielsen says. And pet food with pumpkin as an ingredient – which is said to be good for fur babies’ digestion — saw more than 100% growth in the past year and a whopping 193% growth in the past two years.
While we can all hope pumpkin spice doesn’t creep too much further into summertime, one should expect retailers and food companies to continue to cash in on its popularity year after year, as surely as leaves turn colors and consumers drag out comfy sweaters.