By Alessandra Malito, MarketWatch
It all started with the Starbucks /zigman2/quotes/207508890/composite SBUX -1.40% pumpkin spice latte in 2003.
To say it was well-received would be an understatement and, now, 13 years later, brands across numerous industries have joined the pumpkin party. This year, General Mills /zigman2/quotes/206659526/composite GIS -0.39% introduced pumpkin spice Cheerios and Kellogg’s /zigman2/quotes/209631250/composite K -0.23% debuted pumpkin spice Nutri-Grain bars, Lindt /zigman2/quotes/205781555/delayed CH:LISN -0.75% released its pumpkin spice chocolates and McDonald’s /zigman2/quotes/203508018/composite MCD +0.37% in Japan created pumpkin spice-inspired fries.
This adds to the overwhelming number of other pumpkin products, including but not limited to: coffees, teas, Twinkies, Oreos, cookies, cupcakes, peanuts, sausage, beer, pastas, sauce, milk, doughnuts, chips, gum, ice cream, soap - both dish and hand, shampoo, peanut butter, pudding, popcorn, candles, hummus... and, yes, even dog food.
“It is such a ‘me too’ industry,” said Bonnie Riggs, a restaurant industry analyst at research firm NPD Group. “If it’s that popular with consumers, they’re going to take advantage and have their own version.”
Americans spent $361 million on pumpkin products in 2014, a 79% increase from 2011, according to Nielsen data. In 2014, 37% of U.S. consumers bought a pumpkin-flavored product. The top 10 products included pie filling by far, at $135 million, but other top products included coffee, creamer, baking mixes, baked bread, dog food, yogurt,ice cream, fresh desserts and milk. They even spent it on oral hygiene products, dry pasta and salad dressing.
But it’s also a one-and-done type of purchase, NPD Group’s research found, where pumpkin spice products lack a high repeat purchase frequency. Unsurprisingly, most pumpkin products peak in the fall months, a Nielsen study from 2013 found. Though there are items available all year long, 70% of pumpkin purchases in grocery stores came between September and November.
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Because these products are limited, for the most part, to the fall, there’s a sense of urgency in buying them, Riggs said. They are usually only out for a few months.
And yet, the pumpkin spice trend will continue to go strong for years to come,experts say.
Pumpkin spice crops up almost everywhere, even in sparkling water, which may not be to everyone’s taste, Lynn Dornblaser, director of innovation and insight at market research firm Mintel, said in an email. “If a company does not yet have something that is pumpkin spice flavor, they will have to be sure that what they do is truly unique, and not just another product in a sea of pumpkin spice.”