Is this the end of pumpkin spice?

September 4, 2018
3 min read

Wake up and smell the coffee. Pumpkin spice’s reign as top autumn coffee beverage may be coming to an end. Menu mentions of pumpkin-flavored coffees declined 30% from Fall 2015-Fall 2017 according to Mintel Menu Insights. This decline was driven mainly by a few quick-service restaurants (QSRs), including Starbucks, Tim Hortons and Caribou Coffee.

Mintel’s US research on seasonal dining trends finds diners are more likely to gravitate toward salty/sweet, spicy/sweet, savory and spicy flavored beverages during the fall and winter months. While pumpkin-flavored coffees still appear on fall seasonal menus, operators are also expanding their fall seasonal coffee options to include non-pumpkin flavors. Recently launched flavors include crème brûlée, salted caramel, horchata, maple pecan, smoked butterscotch, and chestnut praline.

Fall coffee launches from August 2018 include:

      • Dunkin’ Donuts Maple Pecan Flavored Coffees and Lattes: A sweet and nutty taste for an exciting new way to stay energized around the changing of the seasons. Maple Pecan flavor is available in the brand’s full coffee lineup, including hot or iced coffee, espresso beverages, Frozen Dunkin’ Coffee, and Cold Brew coffee.
      • Peet’s Coffee Vanilla Cardamom Latte: Vanilla meets cardamom, the queen of spices. Hand-pulled espresso and freshly steamed milk mingle with warm cardamom spice and a hint of comforting vanilla.
      • Starbucks Salted Caramel Mocha: Mocha sauce and toffee nut syrup are combined with coffee and milk, then topped with sweetened whipped cream, caramel drizzle and a blend of turbinado sugar and sea salt. Enjoy the flavors of fall in every sip.

The pumpkin spice collective

Despite the expansion of fall seasonal coffee flavors, operators such as Starbucks, recognize the affinity some consumers have toward the pumpkin spice flavor. Four in five consumers say they look forward to fall seasonal items the most. In early August 2018, Starbucks embraced this consumer by creating a Facebook group called the “Leaf Rakers Society.” This group is “a safe place” for those who embrace all things fall to discuss their love for the season, and their anticipation for the Pumpkin Spice Latte.

What we think

Good or bad, pumpkin spice is here to stay with operators like Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts likely to continue offering the ‘classic’ flavor during the fall season. However, as these declines show, there is room for additional flavors that can appeal to consumers that are not among the pumpkin spice faithful. Several recently launched fall limited-time offers (LTOs) provide a slightly different take on familiar flavors, such as caramel, vanilla, and butterscotch, offering consumers a sense of indulgence and adventure. Additionally, these menu items are bound to create buzz due to their limited availability. Operators should consider offering a variety of fall seasonal coffee flavors, featuring new and classic options, to appeal to a wide consumer base.

Amanda Topper
Amanda Topper

Amanda Topper is the Director of US Research: Food, Drink, Foodservice, Flavors & Ingredients, 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.

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