Aug 23, 2023 - Economy

Summer heat not slowing down pumpkin spice season

Data: Starbucks, Axios research; Chart: Erin Davis/Axios Visuals

The extreme summer heat is not slowing down pumpkin spice season.

The big picture: Love it or hate it, the fall flavor is here, which for many signals a seasonal switch before the temperature gets any cooler.

Driving the news: Starbucks said it will release its Pumpkin Spice Latte and fall menu on Thursday, six days earlier than last year.

  • The announcement kicks off the annual debate over whether it's too soon for fall flavors and if pumpkin fanfare has gone too far.
  • It also follows pumpkin spice's Aug. 16 arrival at Dunkin' and even earlier launches at Krispy Kreme, 7-Eleven and Bath & Body Works.

Between the lines: Nostalgia is one reason why the fall flavor keeps coming back earlier, Jason Fischer, an assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences at Johns Hopkins University, told Axios.

  • "It brings to mind those associated memories including those flavors and aromas of the pumpkin spice stuff," said Fischer, a perception researcher who is also a pumpkin fan.
  • The summer heat is often the argument for why some say pumpkin pandemonium is too early but Fischer said it could be the opposite this year.
  • "Maybe the enduring heat is a thing that just makes us imagine and crave that cooler weather and then it calls to mind pumpkin spice even earlier," Fischer said.

Zoom in: Starbucks added more cold fall products that can help beat the heat.

  • Cold beverages accounted for around 75% of beverage sales in Starbucks U.S. company-operated stores, the company said earlier this month in an earnings call.
  • Sales of cold espresso beverages were up 13% year-over-year.

What's next: More cold and frozen pumpkin products are on the way.

  • On Aug. 28, Dairy Queen brings back its Pumpkin Pie Blizzard and Carvel introduces a Pumpkin Cheesecake lineup.
  • Smoothie King launches five pumpkin smoothies on Aug. 29.

When is pumpkin spice season

The season keeps moving earlier but this year Dunkin' launched its fall menu six days later than 2022.

  • Many pumpkin items will be available at restaurants until they start holiday menus, which usually happens in early November.

Pumpkin product sales have been growing at stores. Consumers have spent more than $802.5 million on pumpkin products over the past 52 weeks through July 29, according to data NielsenIQ shared with Axios.

  • This is up from $563.6 million spent in the same time period in 2019, NielsenIQ data shows.

Seasonal products aren't just for humans. Busch Beer announced a "Pumpkin Spice Flavored Dog Brew" Wednesday and Krispy Kreme will have "Pup'kin Spice Doggie Doughnuts" Saturday through Aug. 31.

Starbucks pumpkin spice 2023 release

Starbucks' fall menu arrives Aug. 24 and also includes apple-flavored products.

  • Returning drinks include The Pumpkin Spice Latte — or PSL for short — Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew and Apple Crisp Oatmilk Macchiato.
  • A new Iced Pumpkin Cream Chai Tea Latte and Iced Apple Crisp Oatmilk Shaken Espresso also join the lineup.

Flashback: The pumpkin spice craze was born 20 years ago when Starbucks' Pumpkin Spice Latte debuted in 2003.

  • The latte is available hot, iced or blended as a Frappuccino.

Pumpkin Spice Frosty coming to Wendy's?

The latest: Rumors are swirling that Wendy's will be the latest to join the pumpkin spice trend in September with a pumpkin spice-flavored Frosty and cold brew, Axios' Alissa Widman Neese reports.

What we're watching: A Wendy's representative declined to confirm to Axios if the rumors are true but last winter the chain introduced a peppermint Frosty for the holidays.

Editor's note: This story was updated with additional pumpkin products.

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