Just when exactly did a lowly gourd previously known only for its ability to both be carved to decorate a front porch and cooked to fill a pie become a marketing juggernaut?
The exact date is unknown, but my work at a Cincinnati marketing agency got me pondering this question recently. I think it’s when I heard that Starbucks was rolling out its not-so-cult favorite Pumpkin Spice Latte early this year, and that the drink has its own Twitter account.
Yep, that’s right, Pumpkin Spice Latte aka @TheRealPSL has more than 93,000 followers and tweets bon mots like “With great pumpkin comes great respiceability.”
You can still find pumpkin pie filling – and plenty of it – this time of year, but in recent years pumpkin has also found its way into a host of unexpected spots on the shelves. Consider these sales numbers from 2013:
- $32 million of pumpkin flavored coffee
- $22 million in pumpkin flavored beer
- $124 million in pie filling
- $27 million in cream
- $23 million in baking mixes
- $5 million in frozen waffles
- $4.5 million in pumpkin flavored milk
Whatever Linus pictured when he slept in the pumpkin patch while he waited for the Great Pumpkin, I’ll bet pumpkin flavored milk wasn’t one of them.
Perhaps the evolution isn’t so very odd. Pumpkin flavored foods are really tasty, and pumpkins join some other holiday foods that not only grace the dining table but are also used to decorate a shelf nearby (think popcorn and cranberries at Christmas, eggs at Easter, and the sometimes weird use of turkeys to both decorate and eat around Thanksgiving).
Pumpkins are cute and universally loved, and best of all, universally recognized as a symbol of autumn. So perhaps not very surprising after all that they’re trotted out to sell everything from cozy scarves to scented candles.
If you need further evidence of pumpkins meteoric rise to fame, I submit Trader Joe’s top 25 customer favorite products: #17 pumpkin bread mix, #8 pumpkin butter and #6 pumpkin coffee.
What are some of your favorite pumpkin items to hit shelves in the fall?