Cloudy With A Chance of Pumpkins

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Hello September!

Here’s your forecast for Fall: cooler with a 100% chance of pumpkins!

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How many of you can’t wait for your yearly allotment of Starbucks pumpkin spice latte? It returns this week and sales will likely top the 200 million cups already sold. New this year: real pumpkin and no more caramel coloring.

CNN reports that one of the newest pumpkin products to hit the market is cereal.

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We already know that Kellogg’s pumpkin spice Pop-Tarts will be back; but did you know that Keebler is now showcasing pumpkin Fudge Stripes cookies?

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Dunkin’ Donuts got into the pumpkin game about eight years ago and hasn’t stopped. In September, Dunkin’ announced new pumpkin-flavored K-Cups, for brewing coffee, alongside pumpkin muffins, donuts and cream cheese.

Annually, the company uses about 100 million pounds of pumpkin puree — with good reason.

“[Customers are] saying ‘more pumpkin, more pumpkin, more pumpkin,'” Frankenthaler said.

More pumpkin is one of the most frequent customer requests, through sites like Facebook, he said. “And we’re saying to ourselves, ‘Wow, they love pumpkin that much. What else can we do?'”

It helps that pumpkin has its roots in fall festivities. Both Sredl and Frankenthaler said celebration is a major hook for ritual-making, whether it’s celebrating the last day of Christmas or the first day of spring. One reinforces the other.

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And how about M&M’s pumpkin spice latte candies? Pumpkin spice Pringles, anyone? There are donuts, bagels, spreads and ice cream? There are pumpkin spice beers, at least one pumpkin spice rum and even a pumpkin spice vodka.

I have read that there are pumpkin spice protein powders, pumpkin spice yogurt and dog shampoo. I am not joking. And in restaurants, “pumpkiny” offerings on the regular menu — everything from drinks to appetizers to pizzas to dessert — are up 36% since 2011, with limited time offerings up by 188%, according to Datassential Menu Trends.

Why do we crave pumpkin flavors in the fall?

The answer is simple.

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“We need rituals,” said Katherine Sredl, assistant professor in the Department of Marketing at the University of Notre Dame.

Sredl, who studies consumer consumption and seasonality, said that it’s no surprise when big-name items, like a spiced latte in October or brand of shoe during back-to-school shopping season, become inextricably linked with the season in which they appear.

Buying becomes its own ritual, which can be a powerful marketing tool.

“Rituals, when they go well, give you a good emotional feeling, that’s what people want,” Sredl said. “They want to feel like there’s something they can rely on.”

But breaking a ritual brings a similar impact, and that’s what happened with Starbucks. People come to rely on these products, Sredl said, and enjoy the feeling of reliance they provide.

This pattern of behavior isn’t unusual. During the back-to-school shopping season, which Sredl has studied specifically, shoe-buying often dominates and parents have been known to panic if the shoe or size or price they’re hunting is suddenly unavailable.

Consider Christmas. “Usually in marketing when we think about seasonality, we think about Christmas because it’s such a huge retail season. But it’s not the retail really — in this case, the pumpkin spice — that created the phenomena,” Sredl said. “It’s the change of seasons.”

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What are you planning for Fall? I know that it is hard to pack away those bathing suits and summer shorts, but soon enough you will likely jump on the bandwagon. Can’t you just smell the pumpkin spice candle now?

Have a spicy week everyone!

Living the Dream,