The Great Pumpkin has a new victim: the American stomach.
The flavor of pumpkin is suddenly showing up in everything from M&M's to vodka to Pop-Tarts. While the orange gourd is seasonal, it is increasingly becoming a year-round obsession, with sales topping $290 million last year, reports Nielsen. The sheer number of pumpkin offerings domestically jumped nearly 19% last year.
"Pumpkin is everywhere these days," says Andrea Riberi, senior vice president at Nielsen. "And, seemingly earlier than last year."
Starbucks, for example, has been selling its wildly popular Pumpkin Spice Latte since late summer in some parts of the country. Dunkin' Donuts rolled out its lineup of pumpkin products in early September. Even Bruegger's Bagels rolled out its pumpkin bagel in early September, "to meet the demand of consumers," says Philip Smith, the bagel chain's executive chef.
But the heart of the pumpkin products season is right now - with 70% of pumpkin product grocery sales taking place in the three-month period between September and November. Last year, the biggest growth for pumpkin was in breakfast foods, breads and coffees, reports Nielsen. And, yes, last year there were pumpkin yogurts, ciders and cream cheeses.
Among some of this season's more unusual offerings:
• M&M's. For those wanting to toss an October twists into the bags of trick-or-treaters, Target is the exclusive seller of Pumpkin Spice M&Ms.
• Pop-Tarts. Kellogg's has brought back Pumpkin Pie Pop-Tarts. They come frosted and sprinkled with pumpkin pie-flavored filling.
• Pringles. No joke, folks. Here come Pumpkin Pie Spice Pringles, for chip snackers with a sweet tooth.
• Ice cream. Baskin-Robbins is bringing back Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream this month. And Pumpkin Pie is the Blizzard flavor of the month at Dairy Queen.
• Doughnuts. Dunkin' Donuts Pumpkin Pie Donut is made with pumpkin pie-flavored buttercream, and the icing is sprinkled with graham cracker topping. "Perhaps, more than any other flavor, pumpkin evokes the feelings of nostalgia and comfort," says Stan Frankenthaler, executive chef at Dunkin'.
• Marshmallows. It might not seem s'mores-ready, but Kraft has rolled out Jet-Puffed Pumpkin Spice Mallows.
• Vodka. Crop Organic Vodka has a pumpkin-spice flavored vodka.
• Beer. New Belgium has rolled out Pumpkick Ale, made with pumpkin juice, cranberry juice, cinnamon and nutmeg.
• Room deodorizer. Here's one way to get the odor of rotting pumpkin out of a room - spray pumpkin deodorizer. Glade this season rolled out a "limited edition" Pumpkin Spice room deodorizer.
Not everything has been pumpkin-ized yet, though the website collegehumor.com has this suggestion for a can't-miss, pumpkin-infused product: pumpkin flavored e-cigarettes.
Bruce Horovitz, USA TODAY