Kelly Tyko USA TODAY
Published 8:15 p.m. UTC Aug 27, 2018
For die-hard pumpkin spice fans, Tuesday is Pumpkinox.
It’s the day Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte – the drink that started the pumpkin craze 15 years ago – returns, which for some signals the unofficial beginning of fall. Hot weather and all.
But the pumpkin pandemonium got an earlier start Monday at Dunkin’ Donuts, 7-Eleven, Cracker Barrel and Wawa. Pumpkin beer and other products have been spotted on grocery store shelves.
Fast-food giant McDonald’s hasn’t announced a date for its pumpkin latte, but it has launched in August the past two years.
Experts say we have Starbucks to blame – or thank – for the flood of pumpkin spice fare. After the coffee giant started selling its Pumpkin Spice Lattes, which many call PSL for short, in 2003, others quickly followed. Real pumpkin was added to the Starbucks recipe in 2015.
“You can bet I will be one of the first in line at my Starbucks on Tuesday,” said Felicity Breuer, of Bradenton, Florida. “My plan is to get my PSL, crank my car’s AC and watch a video of leaves falling to help me feel a bit better.”
Breuer and Kaleigh Black, of Livonia, Michigan, have been gearing up for the drink’s return in Starbucks’ new Leaf Rakers Society Facebook group, described as a “safe place” for pumpkin fans and “year-round scarf-wearers.”
“It’s nice to have people who you can relate with,” Black said of the closed Facebook group. “I have dealt with friends, co-workers and family who think I’m a little too nuts about pumpkin spice, but I say they’re missing out.”
Black isn’t just a lover of pumpkin spice coffee, and has tried – and liked – the flavor in gum, cereal, salsa, ice cream, Pop-Tarts and Oreo cookies.
Not all pumpkin spice items are available yet. More will be added to menus in the coming weeks and the big push, especially at grocery stores, will be in late September and early October.
The products are only available for a limited time, which is not long enough for Dawn Saari, of Port St. Lucie, Florida, which itself is commonly referred to as PSL.
“I’d drink a pumpkin-spiced latte all year long if I could,” Saari said.
Yet the limited availability is part of what creates the demand, said Annie Roberts, a vice president at the NPD Group, a Chicago-based research outfit.
“It is clearly a winning strategy for coffee chains to continue to offer pumpkin spice lattes as a limited-time offer,” Roberts said, noting NPD’s research shows it has a positive effect on visit frequency and how much customers spend.
But there are signs that the seasonal squash’s flavor is losing some luster.
According to Technomic, which tracks food industry trends, this year, pumpkin is expected to be paired more with or take a backseat to up-and-comers such as maple.
Pumpkin and pumpkin spice products are available at participating locations for a limited time.
7-Eleven: Pumpkin spice hot coffee, pumpkin spice latte, creamer and pumpkin spice muffins. New this year, America’s largest convenience store chain has Pumpkin Pie 7-Select Ice Cream.
Cracker Barrel: Select locations nationwide released a limited-time fall menu Monday, which features a Pumpkin Pie Latte.
Dunkin’ Donuts: Pumpkin and maple pecan flavoring are available in Dunkin’s full line of coffees, including hot or iced coffee, espresso beverages, Frozen Coffee and Cold Brew coffee. The chain also has glazed pumpkin doughnuts and Munchkins, muffins, and ground coffee and K-Cup pods.
La Colombe: The boutique coffeehouse’s Pumpkin Spice Draft Latte debuted Aug. 20 in its cafes and website. It will also be available at select retailers.
Pilot Flying J: The chain’s new Pumpkin Caramel Macchiato is now available for a limited time. Plus in September, pumpkin pie creamer and syrup will also return to stores.
Wawa: Coffee, cappuccino and all hot, iced and frozen varieties including Pumpkin Cheesecake and Pumpkin milkshakes returned Monday, along with single-cup cartons and ground coffee bags. Pumpkin doughnuts and muffins return Thursday.
Starbucks: Tuesday is the big day when the PSL returns at company-operated stores in the U.S. and Canada. However, some licensed stores, including those in grocery stores, Target and airports, may release on another day, according to Starbucks.
Biggby Coffee: Pumpkin Spice Latte, the Chumpkin Latte (chai and pumpkin) and Caramel Apple Cider return to stores Sept. 1, and the fall favorites will be available through at least October.
Dairy Queen: The seasonal Pumpkin Pie Blizzard returns for a limited time Sept. 3.
Einstein Bros. Bagels: The chain’s Pumpkin Pie Latte, Pumpkin Muffin and Pumpkin Walnut Crunch Gourmet Bagel with Pumpkin Shmear return Thursday.
Peet’s Coffee: The seasonal lineup featuring a Pumpkin Latte and Pumpkin Chai returns to Peet’s coffeebars Wednesday.
Smoothie King: The smoothie franchise launches four limited-time pumpkin smoothies Sept. 4, which will be available until Dec. 26, including: Slim-N-Trim Pumpkin, Coffee High Protein Pumpkin, Vegan Pumpkin and Pumpkin D-Lite.
TCBY: The last of three fall seasonal flavors, Pumpkin Pie yogurt, is scheduled to launch Oct. 1. A Graham Cracker flavor will come out Sept. 6 and an Apple Pie flavor on Sept. 20.
More: Get ready for fall: Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte returns Aug. 28
More: Pumpkin beers are ripe for picking, if perhaps a bit early in season for some
More: Gala apple passes Red Delicious as America’s favorite
Kelly Tyko is a consumer columnist and retail reporter for Treasure Coast Newspapers and TCPalm.com, part of the USA TODAY NETWORK. Read her Bargainista tips at TCPalm.com/Bargainista, follow her on Twitter @KellyTyko and email her at [email protected]
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