No food is safe: The pumpkin spice craze is taking over

We used to know fall had arrived because of the crisp weather and colorful leaves, but not anymore. Now fall is heralded by cries of joy emanating from every coffee shop in the country when people can finally order their first pumpkin spice lattes of the year.

Students of cooking schools online, especially those in baking and pastry art, have long used pumpkin to amp up their fall recipes, but never has the pumpkin flavor been more popular than right now. The pumpkin spice craze has gotten so big in recent years that it’s expanding well beyond just lattes.

The pumpkin spice craze
Starbucks may have started the trend by introducing the PSL in 2003, but now restaurants, cafes and other businesses are all cashing in on the pumpkin spice craze. Cafes, including other big brand coffee shops like Caribou Coffee and Dunkin Donuts, are selling pumpkin-flavored lattes, but they’ve also expanded their pumpkin offerings to scones, muffins, bagels (and cream cheeses), tarts and other pumpkin pastries. But it’s not just confined to the coffee shops anymore. This year Pinnacle is bringing back a pumpkin pie vodka flavor, Yoplait and Greek yogurt brand Chobani are selling pumpkin-flavored yogurts, stores are selling pumpkin-flavored Kellogg’s Eggo waffles and myriad other brands are participating as well. Even Oreo introduced a pumpkin spice cookie in September.

Are pumpkins boosting the economy?
Data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows that pumpkin-flavored food sales have risen 34 percent in the last five years, and according to Nielsen, sales jumped 14 percent from 2012 to 2013 alone. And even sales of pumpkins themselves are increasing. According to the USDA, sales of the actual gourds have risen by 33 percent since 2011. Pumpkin farmer Jamie Jones of Jones Family Farms in Connecticut said he estimates his sales have risen about a quarter since Starbucks rolled out its pumpkin spice drink, according to CNN Money.

“It makes your head spin,” Jones said of seeing several types of pumpkin-flavored beer in particular. “It seems like every brand has a pumpkin flavor.”

Whether or not the pumpkin boom began with the Starbucks latte, it’s clear that the PSL is what made pumpkins take off in recent years. The coffee chain says they’ve sold over 200 million of the drinks since they introduced them in 2003, and there are even Halloween costumes dedicated to the drink. Regardless of how it began, the pumpkin craze has permeated most parts of the food and alcohol industry, and most agree that it’s here to stay.

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