CHICAGO — Between back-to-school and football games, many traditional fall rituals enjoyed by consumers have been altered by the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The pumpkin spice latte tradition, however, is in full swing.
Coffee and donut chains began rolling out the highly anticipated seasonal launch in August, with offers running through the holidays. While the pandemic didn’t hinder the return of pumpkin spice lattes, it may impact how well the promotions do because of overall restaurant visit declines, The NPD Group reported.
Pumpkin spice lattes typically do not attract new customers but instead appeal to existing customers who purchase more often, sometimes three times more frequently than non-buyers, The NPD Group said. The limited time offers also help check sizes, with checks that included a pumpkin spice latte averaging $2.77 more than the average spend in September and October 2019.
Buyers tend to have higher incomes, with one in three having a household income of $75,000 and above. Pumpkin spice latte fans skew female (57%) over male (48%) and typically are 45 years or older. Sixty-five percent do not have children under 18 in the house, according to The NPD Group’s Checkout platform, which harvests restaurant and retail receipts from an omnichannel panel of more than 130,000 consumers.
The pandemic hasn’t altered this year’s pumpkin spice latte offers but could impact sales as the US restaurant industry continues to be challenged by mandated capacity restrictions and safety protocols. Reluctance on the part of the consumer to visit also could impact sales, The NPD Group said. Restaurant visits overall were down 14% in July, with visits to quick-service coffee and donut chains, which make up the bulk of pumpkin spice latte offerings, down 23% and 13%, respectively.
“Pumpkin spice lattes are a harbinger of fall,” said Darren Seifer, food and beverage industry analyst at The NPD Group. “Consumers anticipate their availability and know the drinks are only around for a short period of time and this anticipation creates demand. With foodservice visits down overall, the success of this year’s pumpkin spice latte offers remains to be seen.”