Autumn is almost here, and for many businesses and consumers that means one thing – pumpkin flavoring. In recent years, pumpkin spice drinks, snacks and other seasonal restaurant offerings have exploded, not only taking over the season, but many places are getting a jump on the craze with pumpkin dishes before the official start of autumn.
For many in the food service industry, pumpkin spice beverages and foods are a large part of autumn marketing. As the pumpkin trend grows, starts earlier and is incorporated into more restaurants, it's a good idea to learn about where the flavoring began and which products feature the flavor this season.
How did pumpkin flavoring start?
Pumpkins are grown all around the world. There are many types of autumn gourds that have become a major part of the fall and harvest celebrations across a variety of cultures. In the U.S., pumpkins are commonly used for carving, displaying and pie filling. Pumpkin flavors have also been in breads and cakes for a long time, but The New York Times traced this new craze of pumpkin spice flavoring to a New Jersey-based flavoring company.
Flavor and Fragrances Specialties creates scents and flavors for base food and beverage products then works out how to best add and mix the flavors and in what quantity to get the best results. Food chemist and head of technical services at the company Dianne Sansone told the newspaper that they first made the pumpkin flavor in the early 1990s for an unidentified coffee company.
This flavoring in the coffee was the start of the craze as it is now. Many of the pumpkin flavors that are associated with these beverages and other products are actually spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, the newspaper reminded consumers.
Starbucks has become synonymous with the pumpkin trend following its 2003 release of the Pumpkin Spice Latte, even though it wasn't the first to start selling the flavored product. Now, the offerings have expanded well past baked goods and coffee, incorporating a massive variety of products looking to profit from this comfort food.
Bloomberg News explained pumpkin flavors to now be akin to eggnog at Christmas and turkey at Thanksgiving. In 2013, $308 million was spent on pumpkin-flavored goods – 14 percent higher than 2012, Bloomberg explained. The New York Times reported that 79 limited-time menu items were featured in major restaurant chains in the U.S. in 2012 versus 37 in 2011.
What are some of the most popular pumpkin flavored goodies?
As this trend looks to continue growing, more products are getting in on the action. Here are a few of the most popular, bizarre and unique pumpkin-flavored offerings in your grocery store or at a restaurant.
Pumpkin-flavored coffee – Starbucks may have the best-known pumpkin coffee beverage, which has sold more than 200 million lattes since its release in 2003, but there are a number of competitors. McDonald's moved up its start date to Sept. 1 this year to get a jump on the trend. Green Mountain Coffee has also been selling its pumpkin coffee since 2001. Coffee-mate markets a coffee creamer with pumpkin spiced flavors for home coffee drinkers as well.
Breads and baked goods – Although pies are the traditional pumpkin-flavored treat, the spice has made its way into more premade foods at grocery stores and restaurants lately. Pumpkin-flavored breads, bagels and English muffins have been sold by companies such as Thomas'. Additionally, cookie, pancake and other mixes are available for flavored homemade treats. If you're looking to go out for your pumpkin baked goods, Dunkin' Donuts features pumpkin-flavored iced donuts and Starbucks has a bunch of pumpkin treats, ranging from scones to muffins. Serious Eats also pointed to IHOP's pumpkin pancakes. And, like Thomas', Bruegger's has sold pumpkin bagels in the past.
Snacks – There's been pumpkin-flavored Pringles, chewing gum, peanut butter, almonds, M&M's, pudding, Pop Tarts, Hershey's Kisses, marshmallows and maple syrup, among others.
Ice cream – Ben and Jerry's started making a seasonal ice cream in 2012 that was based on Starbucks' Pumpkin Spice Latte. The New York Times noted that the ice cream flavor was unique because it was based off the idea of the drink rather than the pie, which the drink is modeled after. Frozen yogurt establishment Red Mango featured a pumpkin spice option as well.
Alcohol and beer – Beer, like coffee, has attracted a number of companies with their specialty season pumpkin-based brews. Many craft and micro-brews have used different spices for pumpkin or fall-flavored beers, but larger breweries have become involved as well. Some liquors have also gotten into the pumpkin game with pumpkin-flavored vodka.
There are many other autumn pumpkin-flavored treats and major and minor companies will likely continue to build off these brands to bring tasty food and drinks to their customers. Whether you're a customer or a vendor, it may be a good time to try some of these out and see what all the hype is about.
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