It’s all things pumpkin’ at Dunkin’

If you think it’s too early to order your first pumpkin spice latte (PSL) of the season, think again. Dunkin’ rolled out its fall flavor lines last week (including everything from pumpkin doughnuts to a new cinnamon sugar pumpkin signature latte) and Starbucks’ PSL will be available on August 27. I’ve seen ads for BeachBody’s pumpkin spice Shakeology as an alternative to coffee shop specials, and even Spam is coming out with a limited pumpkin flavor.

pumpkin spices

In September of 2016 Quirk’s published a blog discussing the “clear association between the PSL and changing seasons,” noting how social media data “shows a number of call outs to fall and summer or people just generally talking about Starbucks' PSL in the context of their favorite season.” 

So how do consumers feel about companies like Starbucks and Dunkin’ rolling out pumpkin spice so early? 

According to a survey conducted by Apester, a digital storytelling firm, 62.5% of consumers said they thought Starbucks is releasing its pumpkin drink too early. Accelerant Research also polled Americans about their attitudes toward the popular fall flavor/scent asking, “When is the right time of year for brands to introduce pumpkin/pumpkin spice?” August came in at 9%, September 50%, October 35%, November 2% and 4% selected, “Yuck, never.” 

Proof is in the spend 

lattesWhile the seasonal availability of PSL gives companies an obvious boost (both in sales and on social), is the early roll out beneficial as customers associate the PSL with fall? 

Even though Americans may not be ready to completely let go of summer at the end of August, Nielsen’s 2018 report showed overall pumpkin spice spend climbing a week earlier than it did in 2017. Genevieve Aronson, vice president for communications at Nielsen, commented on this in an interview with MarketWatch:

“While the early arrival of all things pumpkin spice is a topic of social media debate, early-season dollar sales of pumpkin spice products continues to deliver. For many, widening the sales window for pumpkin spice products could be seen as a win-win: enabling companies to cater to the enduring consumer demand for pumpkin spice, while building out the opportunity to strengthen seasonal sales.”

It will be interesting to see how 2019 sales fare (and how early PSLs will roll out in 2020). Until then, I will personally be waiting until the end of September to enjoy my first pumpkin spice latte.