Pumpkin spice stalwart Starbucks offers an array of limited-time flavors for fall.
Labor Day is approaching, when grilling season winds down and PS season ramps up.
PS, of course, is pumpkin spice. The Starbucks coffee chain jumped in on Aug. 24 with the launch of its signature pumpkin spice latte (or PSL, as it’s affectionately called by fans) and other autumn-themed drinks, the earliest return of its fall line yet.
Other brands are rolling out or announcing their pumpkin spice offerings even as much of the country swelters in late-summer heat. While it isn’t sweater season, some market surveys find that consumers are looking for, or at least have come to expect, pumpkin spice season to roll around in the dog days of August.
A new poll from data intelligence and market research firm Morning Consult showed that about 25% of consumers believe that late August is prime time for pumpkin launches, up from 19% of shoppers who agreed with that last year. Breaking it down demographically, adult members of Gen Z and Millennials are more likely to say that August and September are the right time for pumpkin spice products to hit the market.
The Honey Baked Ham Co., which announced this week that it is adding a limited time pumpkin spice glazed turkey breast, also surveyed consumers about their seeming love of all things pumpkin spice. According to that poll, 65% of people said pumpkin spice flavors should be available August through October; and 15% want the flavor to be available all year.
Even if many consumers think PS products and merchandising are jumping the gun a bit, there isn’t a huge downside to early introductions, one industry analyst told Morning Consult. “Brands do run the risk of going a little bit overboard, but the worst thing that can happen is they get some free press,” said Matt Kleinschmit, founder and chief executive of Reach3 Insights, which works with brands such as Snap Inc. and Diageo PLC on seasonal consumer engagement strategies.
In addition to showing up earlier on shelves and e-commerce pages, pumpkin spice items are available in a greater variety of categories. Traditional PS segments like coffees, teas, creamers, baked goods and desserts continue to welcome new offerings, like Califia Farm’s pumpkin spice half and half, Swiss Miss’s pumpkin spice hot cocoa mix, Hostess’s pumpkin spice Twinkie, and Mochi’s pumpkin spice frozen dessert, to name a few.
Although pumpkin spice isn’t new to the craft beer market, there are different takes on the variety, like a recently unveiled pumpkin spiced latte ale from Harpoon Brewery and brand partner Dunkin’. The hot category of adult fizzy drinks is also shifting early from fruit-flavored drinks to limited time fall ones, with products such as Vive’s pumpkin spice hard seltzer, Shipyard Brewing Company’s Pumpkinhead seltzer and, according to reports, a new line of Bud Light Fall Flannel seltzers that includes Pumpkin Spice along with Toasted Marshmallow, Apple Crisp and Maple Pear.
Limited time PS flavors are emerging in other categories as summer wanes. The Boar’s Head brand is rolling out a new pumpkin pie dessert hummus dip. Earlier this month, Nissin Cup Noodles garnered viral social media buzz for its pumpkin spice ramen available in select Walmart stores.
For their part, retailers are starting to push out these offerings out earlier in the season, alongside or just after back-to-school merchandise. Aldi U.S., for example, recently announced its roundup of new products for autumn, including pumpkin spice pretzels from the Clancy’s brand, pumpkin spice sandwich crèmes from Benton’s and Specially Selected pumpkin cheesecake drizzled caramel corn, among other items.