Learn whether pumpkins are gourds or squash—and why they’re actually a fruit and not a vegetable. Plus, learn about the health benefits.
Days before Halloween, the flood of pumpkin spice fare has hit plump proportions.
Pumpkin spice-flavored items line store shelves and the selection runs the gamut from coffee, beer and pumpkin pie-flavored vodka to pumpkin spice deodorant, scented garbage bags and kitty litter.
Pumpkin also has carved out a temporary place on restaurant menus with beverages, desserts, pastries and entrees.
And before the kids go trick-or-treating and carve faces into the gourds, there’s a day to recognize the pumpkin and all its orange glory: Friday is National Pumpkin Day.
Experts say we have Starbucks to blame – or thank – for the craze, which started soon after it began selling its Pumpkin Spice Lattes, which many call PSL for short, in 2003.
Americans spent $488.8 million on pumpkin spice-flavored foods in the 52 weeks leading up to Aug. 25, according to data from Nielsen. The data analytics company included products that contained the word pumpkin on packaging and found the tally to be a 15.5 percent increase from $423 million in sales during the same time period a year prior.
The products are only available for a limited time, which is not long enough for Dawn Saari, of Port St. Lucie, Florida, which itself is commonly referred to as PSL.
“I’d drink a pumpkin-spiced latte all year long if I could,” Saari said.
The limited availability is part of what creates the demand, said Annie Roberts, a vice president at the NPD Group, a Chicago-based research outfit.
“It is clearly a winning strategy for coffee chains to continue to offer pumpkin spice lattes as a limited-time offer,” Roberts said, noting NPD’s research shows it has a positive effect on visit frequency and how much customers spend.
However, some pumpkin spice products are over the top even to big fans.
Jamie Thomas, of Bangor, Maine, is a member of Starbucks’ Leaf Rakers Society Facebook group and her favorite seasonal drink is Starbucks pumpkin spice chai latte. However, she’s not a fan of everything pumpkin and said she doesn’t like pumpkin beer and wouldn’t try items like pumpkin-flavored Peeps, gum or hummus.
“I just don’t think that these things should be pumpkin spice,” she said. “It gives it a bad name.”
Ranker.com, a crowdsourced rankings website, ranked the “30 Heinous Times Pumpkin Spice Went Too Far.” The top five products were cheese, pasta sauce, salsa, fishing bait and pumpkin spice hummus.
The next seasonal flavor du jour is peppermint.
According to Starbucks, “the seasonal favorite flavor” is already available in the grocery aisle in “Peppermint Mocha flavored Ground Coffee, Peppermint Mocha Caffe Latte K-Cups, VIA Instant Peppermint Mocha Latte, Peppermint Mocha Iced Espresso Classics and Peppermint Mocha Ready-to-Drink Iced Latte.”
This seasonal cocktail is perfect for Halloween or Thanksgiving parties.
Thanksgiving.com, USA TODAY
On the menu
Pumpkin and pumpkin spice products are available at participating locations for a limited time. Check with your closest location to confirm availability.
7-Eleven: Pumpkin spice hot coffee, pumpkin spice latte, creamer and pumpkin spice muffins. New this year, America’s largest convenience store chain has Pumpkin Pie 7-Select Ice Cream.
Auntie Anne’s: Pumpkin Spice Pretzel Nuggets returned Sept. 3.
Baskin-Robbins: Pumpkin Cheesecake Cappuccino Blast is back and small blasts are $2.99 through Oct. 31.
Biggby Coffee: Pumpkin Spice Latte, the Chumpkin Latte (chai and pumpkin) and Caramel Apple Cider will be available at least through October.
BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse: BJ’s Pumpkin Ale returned Oct. 4.
Bruegger’s Bagels: Pumpkin bagels, cream cheese and pumpkin spice coffee will be available through Halloween.
Carvel: Pumpkin is available through Nov. 4 and is available in soft serve, hard scooped, shakes and sundaes.
Cheesecake Factory: Pumpkin Pecan Cheesecake or Pumpkin Cheesecake are available for a limited time.
Chili’s: The Great Pumpkin is the $5 margarita of the month. The chain said it’s made with Monin Pumpkin Spice Syrup, Lunazul Silver Tequila, Triple Sec and a splash of Captain Morgan.
Cracker Barrel: Select locations nationwide released a limited-time fall menu, which features a Pumpkin Pie Latte.
Culver’s: The chain’s Pumpkin Spice Shake and Salted Caramel Pumpkin Concrete Mixer pumpkin offerings are available through Nov. 18.
Cumberland Farms: Pumpkin flavoring and coffee creamer returned in September and the Pumpkin Yogurt Muffin will be available through December. Pumpkin Spice Cappuccino is available year-round.
Dairy Queen: The seasonal Pumpkin Pie Blizzard returned for a limited time Sept. 3.
Denny’s: Pumpkin pancakes are back for a limited time.
Dunkin’: Pumpkin and maple pecan flavoring are available in Dunkin’s full line of coffees and there pumpkin muffins, glazed pumpkin doughnuts and Munchkins available for a limited time.
Edible Arrangements: Get 50 percent off pumpkin treats at stores Friday for National Pumpkin Day. Pumpkin treats include “pumpkin edible donuts.”
Einstein Bros. Bagels: The chain’s Pumpkin Pie Latte, Pumpkin Muffin and Pumpkin Walnut Crunch Gourmet Bagel with Pumpkin Shmear are available through Oct. 31.
First Watch: Pumpkin pancakes are back for a limited time.
Gigi’s Cupcakes: The chain has a lineup of fall cupcakes including Pumpkin Spice Latte, S’mores, and Caramel Haystack, available for shipping or in stores until Nov. 1.
IHOP: Pumpkin Spice pancakes are available for a limited time.
Jack in the Box: The chain’s seasonal Pumpkin Spice Shake is available for a limited time.
Krispy Kreme: Pumpkin Spice Cake doughnuts and Pumpkin Spice Lattes are back for a limited time.
Mimi’s Café: Pumpkin Spice Latte, Pumpkin Harvest Griddlecakes, Pumpkin Crème Muffin and Pumpkin Cheesecake are available through Nov. 11.
MOD Pizza: The special “Kevin Pizza” features a pumpkin puree base and the chain’s “Pumpkin Spice No Name Cake” are available for a limited time.
Nestle Toll House Café by Chip: Pumpkin Spice Lattes and Pumpkin Spice Cookies will be available through Nov. 4.
Olive Garden: The restaurant released a new Chocolate Chunkin’ Pumpkin Cheesecake on menus nationwide in September.
Panera Bread: Although the chain is not having a pumpkin latte this year, it offers the Pumpkin Muffin and Muffie year-round. The Iced Pumpkin Cookie is available for a limited time.
Perkins Restaurant & Bakery: The Pumpkin Spice Pancake Platter, the Pumpkin Doughnut Mammoth Muffin and the Pumpkin Cream Cheese Mammoth Muffin are on the fall menu.
Peet’s Coffee: The seasonal lineup featuring a Pumpkin Latte and Pumpkin Chai is available for a limited time at Peet’s coffeebars.
Pilot Flying J: The chain’s new Pumpkin Caramel Macchiato is now available for a limited time.
Racetrac: Pumpkin coffee is now available.
Ruby Tuesday: The chain has a pumpkin cheesecake available for a limited time.
Seasons 52: The restaurant’s annual three-course Harvest menu has returned including the Pumpkin Pie Mini Indulgence.
Smoothie King: The smoothie chain’s four limited-time pumpkin smoothies are available through Dec. 26 and include: Slim-N-Trim Pumpkin, Coffee High Protein Pumpkin, Vegan Pumpkin and Pumpkin D-Lite.
Starbucks: The PSL and other pumpkin pastries are available for a limited time.
Steak ’n Shake: The Pumpkin Spice Milkshake is back for a limited time.
Sweet Tomatoes/Souplantation: The October menu includes Pesto Pumpkin Bisque, Gluten Friendly Pumpkin Spice Muffin and Classic Pumpkin Spice Cobbler.
Taco John’s: The chain’s Pumpkin Churro is available for a limited time.
TCBY: The last of three fall seasonal flavors, Pumpkin Pie yogurt, launched Oct. 1.
The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf: Through Oct. 31, seasonal drinks include the Pumpkin Cold Brew Almond Milk Latte, Pumpkin Chai Tea Latte and Pumpkin Latte.
The Spice & Tea Exchange: The Pumpkin Chai Latte Tea is available for a limited time.
Wawa: Coffee, cappuccino and all hot, iced and frozen varieties including Pumpkin Cheesecake and Pumpkin milkshakes returned Aug. 27, along with single-cup cartons and ground coffee bags. Pumpkin doughnuts and muffins returned Aug. 30.
Yogurtland: Pumpkin Pie frozen yogurt returned Sept. 3 at select stores nationwide.
At the store
Here are some of the products carving out a spot on store shelves. Selection varies and quantities of these seasonal items are limited.
Alcohol: Pinnacle Pumpkin Pie vodka, Fulton’s Harvest Pumpkin Pie Cream Liqueur, Baileys’ Pumpkin Spice, Kahlua Pumpkin Spice Liqueur, Captain Morgan Jack-O’ Blast Pumpkin Spiced Rum and several kinds of pumpkin beer.
Beverages: So many brands have released pumpkin spice coffee including Starbucks, Dunkin’, Eight O’Clock and store brands. There also are various brands of pumpkin creamers, teas and cocoa.
Breakfast: Pumpkin Spice Cheerios, Special K Pumpkin Spice, Kellogg’s Frosted Mini Wheats Pumpkin Spice, Life Pumpkin Spice and newcomer Pumpkin Spice Frosted Flakes. Quaker has brought back its pumpkin spice instant oatmeal, too. Kodiak Cakes has a Pumpkin & Flax Flapjack and Waffle mix and Birch Benders has pumpkin spice pancake mixes.
Cookies: Grocery stores often have fresh-baked cookies and popular packaged varieties include Milano Pumpkin Spice cookies, Pepperidge Farm Pumpkin Cheesecake Cookies and Oreo Pumpkin Spice cookies.
Health food: Pumpkin has also made its way into some protein drinks and bars. There are select brands of pumpkin protein powder and bars include Quest bars, CLIF Bar Spiced Pumpkin Pie and Lenny & Larry’s Pumpkin Spice Complete Cookie.
Household items: Air fresheners, soaps, candles and home decor with a pumpkin theme. Dollar General has a pumpkin spice-scented trash bag. There’s also Mrs. Meyer’s Pumpkin Scented Multi-Surface Cleaner, hand soap and dish soap.
Ice cream: Frozen treats include Ben & Jerry’s Pumpkin Cheesecake and Halo Top’s seasonal pumpkin pie pints are back. Yasso released its new limited-edition Pumpkin Cheesecake pint and stick bars and Enlightened has a Pumpkin Spice Latte ice cream. Another dessert option that’s frozen but not ice cream is a four-pound Member’s Mark Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake available at Sam’s Club. Daiya has a limited edition, plant-based Pumpkin Spice Cheezecake.
Nothing says fall quite like pumpkins, but there are are a few unexpected pumpkin-flavored foods you may not know exist. Krystin Goodwin (@krystingoodwin) highlights a few pumpkin flavored foods to get you in the fall spirit.
Video provided by Buzz60
Miscellaneous: Pumpkin pasta sauce, salsa, peanut butter and SMASHMALLOW pumpkin pie marshmallows. Harry & David has a pumpkin butter at retail stores and online. Skinny Dipped Almonds has a Greek yogurt pumpkin spice flavor and Snyder’s of Hanover has pumpkin spice pretzel pieces.
Pastries: Pepperidge Farm Swirl Pumpkin Spice, Kellogg’s Pumpkin Pie Pop-Tarts, Base Culture’s Nutty Pumpkin Bread, Nutri-Grain Pumpkin Spice and Belvita Pumpkin Spice breakfast biscuits have been spotted. Thomas’ Pumpkin Spice English Muffins and bagels returned Sept. 10 and another product is Foodstirs Organic Chocolate Chippy Pumpkin Bread Mix.
Yogurt: Chobani Pumpkin Spice Greek, Dannon Light & Fit Pumpkin Pie, Oikos Pumpkin Pie Greek yogurt and siggi’s Pumpkin Spice and noosa yoghurt’s pumpkin spice mates. Not a yogurt, but Muuna Cottage Cheese has a Pumpkin & Spice flavor.
Gourmet grocers: Stores including Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Fresh Market have some of the largest pumpkin selections with most items now available. Whole Foods’ large pumpkin lineup includes a pumpkin whipped topping, pumpkin cardamom pasta sauce, goat cheese and Pumpkin & Sage Farro Pilaf. Trader Joe’s has brought back its Honey Roasted Pumpkin Ravioli, Pumpkin Joe-Joe’s cookies, Pumpkin Cranberry Crisps and more. Discount grocer Aldi also has pumpkin products as does Giant Foods and where while supplies last you can find Pumpkin Spice Cookie Butter.
Pet products: Several brands of dog treats are made with pumpkin including Zuke’s Mini Naturals Ghosts Turkey & Pumpkin Dog Treats.
Kelly Tyko is a consumer columnist and retail reporter for Treasure Coast Newspapers and TCPalm.com, part of the USA TODAY NETWORK. Read her Bargainista tips at TCPalm.com/Bargainista, follow her on Twitter @KellyTyko and email her at email@example.com. Sign up for her weekly newsletter at www.tcpalm.com/newsletters.
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