En español | One of the most distinctive harbingers of the fall season is the return of pumpkin spice — to coffee shops, to menus and to some things that aren’t even edible. Pumpkin spice flavoring is so popular that some merchants will add it to just about any product to garner attention.
And it’s big business. In 2018, Forbes reported that pumpkin products constituted a $600 million market. The poster child for pumpkin popularity is Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte, which debuted in 2003 and which observers see as a turning point in the pumpkin trend. The coffee chain brought it back to the menu on Aug. 24 (the earliest return date ever), along with its iced Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew. Starbucks sells about 424 million of the fall-flavored lattes each year, generating an estimated $100 million, according to Forbes.
Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell, 57, of Mountain Home, Arkansas, eagerly awaits the arrival of the Pumpkin Spice Latte and other pumpkin spice products each fall.
“My social media followers get tired of me anticipating [it] as early as August,” says Fivecoat-Campbell, who purchased a Pumpkin Spice Frappuccino from Starbucks the first week it became available. “I first got into it when it really started hitting big with Starbucks, and I think now there's everything pumpkin spice.”
On the list of the most popular pumpkin products (in addition to those lattes) are pumpkin spice ice cream (generating $10 million annually), pumpkin pie filling ($130 million) and pumpkin-flavored dog food ($109 million).
Eliza Cross, 62, of Boulder, Colorado, has written two pumpkin-recipe cookbooks that feature dishes such as pumpkin risotto, chili and cakes. “Pumpkins lend themselves to a huge variety of recipes because they're a very versatile ingredient,” says Cross, who noted that the earthy flavors of the fruit pair well with savory dishes and and its sweetness makes for good desserts.
There may also be a neurological factor driving pumpkin fandom. Marie Wright, a food chemist and the chief global flavorist at ADM, a Chicago-based company that supplies ingredients to food manufacturers, says that fall flavors appeal to the primitive part of the brain, where memories and emotions are stored. “It evokes the feeling of warmth, security and coziness,” Wright says of pumpkin spice.
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Here’s a look at some of the limited-edition pumpkin spice products that will be available in the coming months.
1. Pumpkin spice latte
The iconic fall drink is most closely associated with Starbucks, but competitors have pioneered their own versions. Peet’s Coffee, The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Tim Hortons and Saxbys Coffee, along with other national chains, have released their own takes on the pumpkin spice latte for the fall season. Most are available for a limited time.
2. Dunkin’ Donuts
Dunkin’ is offering pumpkin-themed doughnuts, muffins and munchkin doughnut holes on its fall menu, which debuted on Aug. 18. The New England–based chain is also offering pumpkin-flavored coffees: Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew and Pumpkin Spice Signature Latte.
3. Bud Light Seltzer Fall Flannel Variety Pack
This 12 pack of alcoholic seltzers features Bud Light Seltzer Pumpkin Spice, a drink that combines pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla flavors. The seasonal packaging comes with a plaid design and will be available in stores nationwide from Sept. 6 through the end of October.
4. Dairy Queen Pumpkin Blizzard
The ice cream chain is bringing back its Pumpkin Pie Blizzard, a staple that has been on the fall menu for more than 25 years. The blizzard includes real pumpkin pie pieces, vanilla ice cream, whipped cream and nutmeg and is available from Aug. 30 through the fall at participating locations.
5. Nissin Cup Noodles Pumpkin Spice flavor
Nissin Foods announced in August a new pumpkin-flavored version of cup ramen to celebrate the company’s 50th anniversary. "After 50 years of noodle innovation, what better time to release our most unexpected flavor to date with pumpkin spice? And trust me, it really is that good," Jaclyn Park, vice president of marketing at Nissin Foods USA, said in the product announcement. The new noodles will be sold exclusively at Walmart starting in late October.
6. Jamba Juice Pumpkin Smash Classic
This tropical twist on a fall favorite has been around since 2018, and the unique smoothie combines real pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg and nonfat frozen yogurt. It will be available for purchase throughout the fall.
7. Culver’s Pumpkin Shakes
The Midwestern custard shop just announced the return of its pumpkin desserts, which include a Salted Caramel Pumpkin Concrete Mixer and a pumpkin spice shake. Both custards include pureed pumpkin and pumpkin pie spices. The offerings will be available from Sept. 27 to Nov. 25.
8. KIND Caramel Almond Pumpkin Spice Bars
These granola bars includes almonds, caramel and pumpkin spice in one of the few health-conscious options on this list. They are available year-round at Target and on Amazon, but they’re currently sold out on the KIND website.
9. Pumpkin Oreos
These cookies do not contain real pumpkin, but the combined flavor of traditional Oreos and pumpkin spice seems to be a winner, with the treat selling out quickly each year. The cookies, which contain vivid orange pumpkin-spice-flavored cream filling wedged between vanilla wafers, are available only during the fall months.
10. Bailey’s Pumpkin Liqueur
This limited-edition hard beverage combines flavors of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves for a “mouthful exploding like a tasty firework on a chilly night,” according to the Bailey’s website.
Unexpected pumpkin products:
11. Greenies Pumpkin Spice Flavor Natural Dental Dog Treats
Online pet retailer Chewy has made it possible for dogs to get in on the fall fun with pumpkin-flavored treats. The treats are available year-round, but supplies often sell out during the fall.
12. Mrs. Meyer's Pumpkin Cleaner
Looking to spice up your home with the aromas of autumn? This all-purpose cleaner combines essential oils and pumpkin scents and is available for purchase year-round.
13. Native Pumpkin Spice Latte Deodorant
This all-natural deodorant can be purchased at Target and Amazon. The reviews are mixed, however, so it may be a product best reserved for pumpkin spice purists.
Kelly Anderson is a contributing writer who covers features and political issues. He has written for DCist, the Society for Human Resource Management and Georgetown Magazine.