One minute, you are thinking about how how the PSL's appearance has signaled the end of summer and, the next, ghosts and witches are in every coffee shop and fast-food company's Instagram.
Pumpkin spice, or the vaguely "autumnal" combination of pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves popularized by Starbucks (SBUX) - Get Free Report throughout the 2000s, has been appearing on store shelves earlier and earlier.
The Nabisco branch of parent company Mondelez (MDLZ) - Get Free Report already had the OREO Pumpkin Spice Sandwich Cookies out by August 15, while a survey from business intelligence company Morning Consult found that 25% of Americans believe late August is the perfect time to start finding pumpkin spice products.
The Fine Line Between Pumpkin Spice Season and Halloween
By mid-October, Halloween starts to crowd out pumpkin spice as the occasion around which snacks and fast food are marketed.
On Oct. 10, Restaurant Brands International (QSR) - Get Free Report's Burger King launched its Ghost Pepper Whopper with Orange Bun — a flame-grilled beef patty with spicy queso, crispy jalapeños, bacon, and ghost pepper cheese on a bright orange poppy seed bun.
For those who truly want to get into the Halloween spirit, the company also added a "paranormal ghost detector" to its mobile app. Those who log in and check whether they have spooky activity inside their house between October 17 and 31 will be entered to win a Ghost Pepper Whopper meal for two.
Donut chain Krispy Kreme (DNUT) - Get Free Report also recently launched a series of Halloween donuts. The All-New Haunted House Collection features the Spooky Spider Doughnut with icing made to look like a spider web, the Scaredy Cat Doughnut dipped in purple icing and with a black cat chocolate piece and the Boo Batter Doughnut with green sprinkles and an edible ghost decoration.
The Neon Orange Sprinkle Doughnut is a simpler orange-and-sprinkle creation that evens out the other three.
Spooky Donuts, Burgers, and Halloween Pails
"When fans open the door on our haunted house custom box, they'll 'skreme' with delight at all-new doughnuts that are perfect for celebrating everything that’s sweet about Halloween," Krispy Kreme's Global Brand Chief Officer Dave Skena said in a press release.
Not one to feature many seasonal products and collections, burger giant McDonald's (MCD) - Get Free Report also recently brought back the Halloween pails that make regular seasonal appearances at the chain since 1986.
The McBoo, McPunk'n and McGoblin are meant for trick-or-treating and are particularly nostalgic for those who grew up in the 1980s and 1990s.
Whether for Halloween or any other holiday, seasonal products present an invaluable marketing opportunity for a fast food company. Many who do not often buy fast food can get caught up in products that look cute and are only around for a short time.
The Asian branches of many popular fast-food chains are particularly good at creating holiday tie-ins with a cultural flavor. In September, McDonald's Japan launched a "Tsukimi Burger" for the country's annual autumn moon viewing festival.
The rounder bun and fried egg were meant to represent the moon for what is a beloved and culturally significant holiday in the country. A wider McDonald's "moon viewing" menu also featured a breakfast muffin with an egg and tomato sauce, a sweet potato McShake, and a "Feels Like Autumn" McFlurry with chestnut paste.