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Pumpkin Spice Sends Starbucks, Dunkin Visits Skyrocketing

A week after Starbucks brought in its new fall menu, foot traffic soared by 25.7%.

While many of us will poke fun at the western world's obsession with pumpkin spice, the flavor never fails to signal the start of the fall — and bring in serious business.

First introduced by Starbucks  (SBUX)  in 2003, the Pumpkin Spice latte has evolved into a cult classic with its ambiguously "autumn" taste of pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.

Along with its loyal fan base, that pumpkin spice flavor also comes with certain stereotypes and what seems like more and more products without the slightest connection to pumpkin every year.

The internet has spotted pumpkin spice hummus, pumpkin spice cup noodles and even pumpkin spice-flavored CBD gummies made by none other than Martha Stewart.

Stomping Pavement For Pumpkin Spice

But while food industry analysts have been commenting on pumpkin spice market saturation as far back as 2013, the numbers do not show that the public is growing even a little bit tired of the autumnal flavor.

According to a recent Placer.ai study, foot traffic to Starbucks  (SBUX)  soared by 25.7% a week after the coffee giant introduced its fall menu on August 30. It is a pumpkin-heavy menu featuring not just the seasonal treat but also Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew, a pumpkin cream cheese muffin and a cake pop that looks like a little owl.

When Starbucks introduced its fall menu in 2021 and 2020, foot traffic only went up by a respective 16.2% and 14% during the first week.

"The return of pumpkin-themed menu items signals the arrival of fall in the coffee space," the study reads. "Over the years, everything from pumpkin spice lattes to pumpkin muffins have gained a massive following."

CHART Pumpkin JS 092122

Dunkin  (DNKN) , meanwhile, launched a fall menu with Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew, Nutty Pumpkin Coffee and pumpkin-flavored donuts and donut holes on August 17.

Within a week, visitors to Dunkin shops increased by 9.5%. While not as dramatic as Starbucks (some people spend all year waiting for the original Pumpkin Spice Latte), visits still rose from the 8.2% and 6.7% seen in 2021 and 2020.

One of the only non-pumpkin items is a Blood Orange Dunkin’ Refresher.

Why Are We So Obsessed With Pumpkin?

As they bring in strong traffic, pumpkin spice everything seems to appear in coffee shops and store shelves earlier each year. A survey from business intelligence company Morning Consult found that 25% of Americans feel late August is the perfect time to start seeing pumpkin spice products.

"I don't think 'too soon' is a thing right now," Nic Climer, the executive creative director of the RAPP marketing agency that develops seasonal products for fast-food chains, told Morning Consult. "[...] If pumpkin spice is your thing, and your audience loves it, people need that extra zing in their life right now."

Food research firm Tastewise found that there was a 221% rise in pumpkin spice's appearance on menus between October 2019 and 2020 alone.

Despite such an explosion of products, Starbucks also maintains a strong grip on its early lead in this space. On the day Starbucks launched its fall menu, store visits spiked by 14.6% while Dunkin's fell by 5.7%.

"For all of the turbulence in the coffee space since the onset of the pandemic, the fall menu releases were a foot traffic catalyst for both Dunkin’ and Starbucks in 2022," the Placer.ai study reads.