Rise of new fall flavor puts pumpkin spice in sticky situation
Tuesday, September 12, 2017
Sweater weather and students going back to school once signified the beginning of the fall season, but in recent years the launch of everything pumpkin spice has done the trick. As pumpkin spice lattes, desserts, products and more largely become available around Labor Day, customers flock to stores to partake in the limited edition goodness.
However, a recent article in Forbes points to the rise of maple syrup as a threat to pumpkin spice's fandom. Could this be the start of a new fall tradition?
Starbucks first launched the pumpkin spice latte in 2003, a time when pumpkin spice products were uncommon in the marketplace. As the latte's popularity grew over the years, Starbucks kicked their marketing into overdrive in 2014, creating social media accounts and a hashtag for the #PSL. By then, other food vendors had ramped up their offerings, making pumpkin spice a ubiquitous entity — perhaps to the point of exhaustion.
While pumpkin spice products are still quite popular, sales of new products are not growing at rates they once did. MarketWatch cites Samir Bhavnani, area vice president at 1010data, who thinks that, "We may be at peak spice, and we'll quickly know whether pumpkin spice has jumped the shark as this season's sales roll in."
As customers look forward to seasonal launches, companies must diversify their offerings to present something new, in addition to classic favorites. This year, Dunkin Donuts has introduced a maple pecan iced coffee, and rumors are swirling that a maple pecan latte will be launching shortly at Starbucks. It has already been released in Australia.
This isn't Starbucks' first foray into the world of maple. In 2014, their Canadian stores launched a limited edition maple macchiato, made with real maple syrup from Quebec. Maple wasn't expected to take the stage at this time, as Starbucks' American counterparts sold a vanilla macchiato instead.
A recent study, however, shows the use of maple is up 85 percent in nonalcoholic beverages from Q2 2016 to Q2 2017.
Earlier this summer, the Financial Post discussed Quebec's existence as the world's largest maple syrup producer, with production levels increasing since 2013 — all due to optimal weather patterns. Just last year, farmers increased the number of syrup-extracting taps on maple trees by 1.4 million, ensuring greater output in the seasons to come — producing up to 15 million pounds more than before.
Vermont has been producing syrup in record numbers as well, also citing good weather conditions and a boost in farming technology. Last year, the Burlington Free Press noted that production had totaled more than 35 million pounds in a year, the greatest number since outputs started being recorded in 1916.
Should maple syrup's popularity skyrocket, a future consideration would be to ensure its supply is ahead of the demand.
Avocados have served as a cautionary tale here. As they have become more popular in recent years, prices have soared, and shortages have been frequent. Finally, a recent study from University of Queensland researchers has demonstrated a possible solution — using stem cells to reduce the 10-year wait time for avocado varieties to reach commercial orchards to only three years.
As maple products are starting to enter the market, product creativity and customers' tastes will dictate its level of success. While pumpkin spice has been around since the early 2000s, maple syrup presents itself as a familiar entity to consumers on a national, if not global scale.
It can be easy to get ahead of ourselves when predicting food trends, but with production levels being optimized and consumer tastes shifting towards maple as an additive, the future is certainly bright for maple syrup.
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