pumpkin spice latte

Pumpkin spice season is leading the early charge into fall

It used to be that pumpkin spice and fall-related flavours arrived on the shelves just before Thanksgiving, but these days, retailers have been capitalizing on these seasonal offerings since as early as mid-August. As 54 per cent of operators said that limited-time offers (LTOs) are a central part of their business, they plan to release even more LTOs this year than last year.

Leading the pack is the traditional taste of pumpkin spice. Even though it was down five per cent on menus last year, 154 pumpkin LTOs were still launched by major chains.

Heading into fall 2022, consumers are looking for comfort food and flavours, and this year’s most popular fall flavours include Vietnamese cinnamon, spicy ginger, allspice, and eggnog.

On the savoury side, flavours like coconut milk, “Oktoberfest”, and mustard cream are on the list, in addition to the Thanksgiving-themed turkey gravy and cranberry sauce. Apple leads the fruit favourites and blood orange is also gaining popularity, growing 18 per cent on menus over the last four years.

Even though September has just begun, many fast-food restaurants have already introduced a seasonally-inspired lineup, with a predominantly pumpkin theme. Tim Hortons launched its lineup of pumpkin spice muffins, donuts, lattes, and iced capps on August 25, and Starbucks released its pumpkin spice lattes and pumpkin cream cold brews on August 30. Dairy Queen even has a pumpkin pie Blizzard available now, as part of their seven-item seasonal menu additions.

Fall features like pumpkin spice offer a refreshing menu update and the opportunity for restaurants to capitalize on the LTO market. But what should restaurants avoid when putting together their seasonal menus? Datassential’s recent report cautions restaurants about over-complicating items and burdening staff, relying too heavily on discounting menu items, and prioritizing seasonality over freshness.

Keeping it simple this season will keep customers coming back and restaurateurs happy that fall came early.