Fall flavor trends: Pumpkin spice and up-and-coming seasonal flavorsFall flavor trends: Pumpkin spice and up-and-coming seasonal flavors
It’s the season of pumpkin spice. Here’s how pumpkin spice is faring this fall, and which seasonal flavors are trending, according to market experts.
October 5, 2023
At a Glance
- Pumpkin spice remains a highly popular seasonal flavor across various food and beverage categories.
- Sales of pumpkin spice-flavored products increased 47% from 2017-2022.
- Other emerging fall flavors—including s’mores, donut, maple and squash—are gaining traction in the U.S. market.
It’s the season for seasonal flavors and, namely, the fan favorite pumpkin spice.
Actually, it’s the 20th consecutive season of pumpkin spice. According to Starbucks, the company launched its infamous Pumpkin Spice Latte in 2003 at 100 stores in Vancouver, British Columbia, and Washington, D.C. By 2013, the company sold more than 200 million Pumpkin Spice Lattes.
For a number of years, pumpkin spice-flavored products have been wildly popular among consumers. According to NielsenIQ data published by The Guardian, sales of pumpkin spice products increased 47% in the five years spanning 2017 to 2022, reaching $236 million in 2022.
In 2022, 204 pumpkin-flavored items hit the menus of major foodservice chains, Datassential reported in its 2023 Midyear Trend Report. However, that marked a 1% decrease on menus. Rising on menus and retail shelves are fall flavors like apple, blood orange, spicy flavors and candy flavors, the report noted.
Despite the potential pumpkin spice dip, pumpkin spice is still a trending flavor, underlined by its popularity across food and beverage categories.
“Pumpkin spice is not only for coffee products, but shows up across categories (snacks, chocolate, alcoholic drinks, all types of dairy, confectionery),” Lynn Dornblaser, director of innovation and insight at Mintel Consulting, explained. “It is this type of proliferation across categories that illustrates the strength of the flavor. It’s not going anywhere.”
Another seasonal flavor that’s gaining traction is the U.S. market, Dornblaser said, is s’mores. “Like pumpkin spice, it has been growing and expanding into new categories in recent years (e.g., snack bars, cold cereal, even popcorn),” she said. “That flavor evokes the essence of fall, I think, with cold weather, sweaters, bonfires, all that good stuff.”
Mike Kostyo, trendologist and associate director at Datassential, pointed to donut as another emerging fall flavor in a recent webinar. “As we were seeing some of the new CPG launches for the fall, this theme kept coming up over and over, which is all the donut flavors,” he said.
Donut flavor is what Kostyo called “item as flavor”—when a food item or brand becomes a flavor. He cited examples of food items that have become popular, such as birthday cake and everything bagel.
Some examples of new, donut-flavored products include Chobani’s Maple Glazed Donut-flavored coffee creamer, Tim Hortons’ Apple Fritter-flavored breakfast cereal and Mrs. Butterworth’s Dunkin’ Glazed Donut-flavored syrup.
“If you do work on the sweet side of the business and you are looking for some trending flavors, donut is definitely one that’s growing,” Kostyo said.
Other flavors that have potential for continued growth include pumpkin (sans spice), maple and squash, which has seen a “big uptick in soups,” according to Dornblaser. Cranberry, too, is a popular seasonal flavor linked to the Thanksgiving holiday, “but is appearing across more categories,” she said.
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