Amanda Topper
Amanda Topper is the Associate Director of Foodservice Research, responsible for overseeing all of Mintel’s foodservice offerings, as well as providing insight and competitive analysis across scheduled deliverables, and client and industry presentations.

Love it or hate it, pumpkin spice foods and drinks are here to stay. The classic fall flavor is still gracing restaurant menus across the US. Pumpkin spice grew 16% as a food or beverage flavor on US menus from Fall 2016-Fall 2018, according to Mintel Menu Insights.

Coffee leads the way with pumpkin spice flavor innovation in beverages, although there is some directional growth in pumpkin spice flavored cocktails and shakes. Pumpkin spice is less likely to show up on menus as a food flavor, although it is growing. Desserts dominate the pumpkin spice food space including items such as ice cream, cheesecake, and cake.

Each year, operators are tasked with making the pumpkin spice flavor exciting for diners, balancing annual favorites with new takes on classics. Several operators are putting a new spin on the classic fall flavor with limited time offers this season. Additionally, combining pumpkin spice items with other familiar flavors such as maple or cinnamon is another way restaurants are keeping loyal pumpkin spice fans satisfied while also attracting new customers.

Here are several examples of how US restaurants are adding a new twist to pumpkin spice offerings this fall:

Source: Dunkin’

Dunkin’s Cinnamon Sugar Pumpkin Signature Latte is a new offering in 2019 and aligns with the brand’s focus on promoting its espresso program. The new latte can be made hot or iced and is finished with whipped cream, caramel drizzle, and cinnamon sugar topping.

Source: Starbucks

Building off the popularity of its Pumpkin Spice Latte, Starbucks launched its new Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew this season with cold brew coffee, vanilla, pumpkin cream cold foam, and pumpkin spice topping. The cold beverage is an ideal option for customers looking for a less sweet pumpkin spice beverage.

Source: Krispy Kreme

Krispy Kreme offered its new Pumpkin Spice Original Filled Doughnut with cheesecake filling for one week in September, further driving demand and short-term buzz. During the week, customers can trade in a “pumpkin spice letdown,” or a disappointing pumpkin spice product, for a free pumpkin spice Krispy Kreme doughnut.

Source: Dairy Queen

In addition to the return of its Pumpkin Pie Blizzard, Dairy Queen launched a free candle collection inspired by its fall Blizzard menu which quickly sold out. Candle scents include Pumpkin Pie and Harvest Berry.

Source: Corner Bakery

Corner Bakery combined a popular familiar flavor, maple pecan, with pumpkin for its new Maple Pecan Pumpkin Baby Bundt Cake. The mini cake features vanilla maple icing and candied pecans.

Source: Pilot Flying J

Similar to Corner Bakery, Pilot Flying J is offering a maple-flavored seasonal coffee this fall with its Pumpkin Maple Cappuccino. At just $1.59, the brand’s offering is competitively priced compared to other pumpkin-flavored coffees from national chains.

What we think

Since pumpkin spice food and drinks have grown in popularity over the years, operators are tasked each year with making their seasonal fall items appealing and exciting. Offering new flavors and formats of pumpkin spice food and drinks can appeal to die-hard pumpkin spice fans as well as consumers who are open to trying something slightly different. While pumpkin spice foods are growing on US menus, most operators are currently focusing on fall beverages, highlighting an opportunity to promote foods that could become the next fall favorite.