Slideshow: Pumped about pumpkin

by Monica Watrous
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KANSAS CITY — Pumpkin season is upon us, and the favorite fall flavor is no longer reserved for coffeehouse lattes and Thanksgiving Day pies. Packaged foods companies are carving a slice of the whipped cream-topped action with a range of products that includes peanut butter, yogurt, frozen waffles, baking mixes, marshmallows and gum. Yes, gum.

 

The gourd has soared across the supermarket, from the frozen aisle to the snacks section. Breakfast products include Pillsbury Toaster Strudel pumpkin pie pastries, Kellogg’s Pop-Tart pumpkin pie toaster pastries and Kellogg’s Eggo pumpkin spice waffles. New from Quaker Foods, a business unit of PepsiCo, is Quaker Oats pumpkin spice instant oatmeal, available through the end of the year. Consumers also may choose to slather Jif’s Whips pumpkin pie spice whipped peanut butter spread on a toasted Thomas’ pumpkin spice English muffin, with a Bolthouse Farms pumpkin spice latte or a single-serve pumpkin spice coffee from Keurig’s Green Mountain Coffee brand.

Snacks include Yoplait Light pumpkin pie yogurt and Chobani pumpkin spice Greek yogurt, Pepperidge Farm Milano pumpkin spice cookies and Dessert Shop soft-baked pumpkin cheesecake cookies, and pumpkin spice energy bars from Clif Bar and Larabar brands. And, while not confirmed by parent company Mondelez International, pumpkin spice Oreos may debut this season.

Home bakers may prefer new Nestle Toll House pumpkin spice morsels or one of many fashionably flavored mixes that include Pillsbury Perfectly Pumpkin premium cake mix, Betty Crocker pumpkin spice cookie mix, and Duncan Hines Decadent pumpkin spice cupcake kit.

Ice cream lovers can dig into a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Pumpkin Cheesecake with a graham cracker swirl or Slow Churned Pumpkin Patch ice cream from Edy’s and Dreyer’s brands. Dessert products also include Jell-O pumpkin spice instant pudding and Jet Puffed pumpkin spice marshmallows, both from Kraft Foods.

For chocolate fans, there’s pumpkin spice M&M’s candies, pumpkin Hershey’s Kisses, and Ghirardelli milk chocolate squares filled with pumpkin spice caramel.

And, to top it all off, Wrigley’s, a subsidiary of Mars, Inc., this year has introduced a seasonal pumpkin spice variety of Extra gum.

Supporting the trend is a sentimentality associated with autumn’s warm and spicy flavors, as well as an urgency to buy products offered for a limited time.

“Limited edition items have been great at bringing new and interesting flavors to our consumers at a time of year when they are looking for them,” said Ted Swain, senior brand manager for Bimbo Bakeries USA, in an interview with Food Business News. “We introduced Thomas’ Pumpkin Spice English Muffins and Bagels in the fall 2012 to much consumer fanfare and brought them back again last year.”

The seasonal sensation that may have started it all is Starbucks’ pumpkin spice latte, a coffee drink with a cult-like following and a release date that is nudged earlier and earlier each year. The beverage, which has sold more than 200 million since its introduction in 2003, even has its own Twitter page, @theRealPSL, with more than 56,000 followers.

“The fanaticism for Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte is extraordinary,” said Alexandra Wheeler, vice-president of Starbucks Global Digital Marketing. “There’s an incredible love for the sweet and spicy taste of this beverage that’s distinct to Starbucks. Its arrival signals the beginning of fall for PSL super fans.”

Pumpkin also has exploded on restaurant menus in donuts, pancakes, muffins and ice cream. More than half of fast-casual customers said in a Technomic, Inc. survey they are more likely to order an item described as “seasonal.” But while many may welcome the early and ubiquitous arrival of the pumpkin flavor, others may burn out by Halloween.
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