Food Product Focus: Pumpkin

From breakfast cereal to yogurt, 'tis the season for pumpkin-flavored foods.

For Starbucks, the Pumpkin Spice Latte, referred to by its fans as simply PSL, is the coffee chain's most popular seasonal beverage of all time. So popular, that in response to consumer demand, this year PSL returned to stores the day after Labor Day, giving fans a few extra weeks before the official start of autumn to enjoy their favorite beverage.

“When you taste PSL, it tastes just like fall,” says Peter Dukes, director of espresso and brewed coffee. When Dukes and his team first began developing a pumpkin spice beverage in spring of 2003, there weren't many pumpkin products in the marketplace.

“When we first surveyed our customers with our top ideas for a new fall beverage, pumpkin scored right in the middle of the pack,” Dukes says. “But the uniqueness of the beverage was very high, and it caught our attention. We played with the spice and the level of sweetness, tasting hundreds of different versions. Ultimately, we found that the spicy notes of cinnamon, clove, ginger and nutmeg brought out the espresso, letting the coffee shine through.” The drink contains real pumpkin puree.

On the retail side, it should be no surprise that pie filling is the leading pumpkin product. When it comes to pumpkin-flavored foods, coffee creamers are No. 1, followed by coffee and then baking mixes, according to Nielsen data. Last year, 37 percent of U.S. consumers purchased a pumpkin-flavored product, accounting for $361 million in sales, having grown 79 percent since 2011.

According to Nielsen analysts, pumpkin-flavored goods show no sign of slowing down. The limited-time offerings create an urgency to purchase and enjoy, before peppermint candy cane and gingerbread takeover.

Pumpkin Spice Products

Carving Time for Breakfast

According to a study by Mondelez International, 93 percent of Americans consider pumpkin spice the official flavor of fall. The company's belVita brand has responded with the launch of Pumpkin Spice Breakfast Biscuits. Available for only eight weeks, each 50-g single-serve pouch, sold five to a box, contains 230 calories, 8g of fat, 19g of whole grain, 11g of sugar and 4g of protein, a nutrient combination described as delivering four hours of nutritious, steady energy to help customers make the most of their fall mornings. The biscuits are made with dried pumpkin and sweet potato.

Limited-Edition Cereal and Cookies

Kellogg Co. introduces Frosted Mini-Wheats Pumpkin Spice cereal and Keebler Pumpkin Spice Fudge Stripe cookies, joining the return of limited-edition seasonal Pop-Tarts Pumpkin Pie toaster pastries. Both the cereal and cookies are all about the cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and ginger. However, neither contains any pumpkin. The filling in the toaster pastries does contain real pumpkin.

Seasonal Yogurt Flavors

General Mills has found great success with seasonal flavors in many of its offerings, from cake mixes to yogurts. This autumn the company grew its fall yogurt line with the addition of Yoplait Greek 100 Caramel Apple and Yoplait Greek 100 Whips! Pumpkin Cheesecake. These join Yoplait Original Apple Crisp and Yoplait Light Pumpkin Pie. “We know Yoplait fans love our fall-inspired flavors,” says Susan Pitt, marketing manager. “From freshly picked-apples to grandma's pumpkin pie, each spoonful of Yoplait will remind consumers what it is about fall that makes the season so spec