Pumpkin Power!

Pumpkin Power!

By Andrea Riberi, SVP, Alcoholic Beverages, and Erin Erskine, Associate Client Manager, Alcoholic Beverages

Pumpkin is everywhere these days. From your neighborhood coffee house to your local grocery store, this palate-pleasing player has spread like wildfire throughout restaurants and stores this season, and seemingly earlier than last year. Last year, pumpkin-flavored offerings in the U.S. grew 18.8 percent in Nielsen-measured retail outlets, selling over $307 million during calendar year 2012.

Though many pumpkin offerings are available year-round, there’s no denying the seasonal popularity of this particular brand of squash right now. Last year, 70 percent of pumpkin-oriented grocery sales in the U.S. occurred between September and November. And sales weren’t limited to pie filling; pumpkin pops up across the kitchen landscape—from breakfast foods to beverages to the ever-popular dessert items.

Pie filling, however, is a solid pumpkin performer. Last year, it accounted for 42.7 percent of all pumpkin sales, followed by coffee and cream (11.2% and 9.5%, respectively). The popularity of pumpkin in the grocery aisles has no doubt piggybacked on the rise of pumpkin outside of the grocery stores. Starbucks, for example, just celebrated the 10th anniversary of its Pumpkin Spice Latte. This specialty latte is Starbucks’ most popular seasonal beverage, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Outgrowing the Pumpkin Patch

So what fueled the 18.8 percent pumpkin growth last year? Breakfast foods included seven out of 10 of the top growing categories when ranked on dollar growth. Baked bread flew to the top of dollar growth, up 177 percent from 2011. Coffee and cream followed suit as top growers, with frozen sweet breakfast goods coming in fourth. The frozen breakfast sweet goods segment was new in 2012, as it wasn’t a top grower in the previous year.

The pumpkin trend can be found outside of the grocery store as well, extending into coffee houses and restaurants that serve breakfast. Perhaps consumers enjoy pairing their pumpkin flavored coffee with pumpkin toast topped with pumpkin cream cheese. This orange gourd has even influenced the spice rack. Of all the pumpkin flavors (e.g., pumpkin, pumpkin spice, pumpkin apple), pumpkin spice is the second most popular,and units sold grew 60 percent in 2012 versus a year ago.

Where Pumpkin Pops

Pumpkin flavored $ (000) % Total Pumpkin
Pie Filling 124,966 42.70%
Coffee 32,689 11.20%
Cream 27,936 9.50%
Baking Mixes 23,295 8.00%
Beer 22,391 7.70%
Baked Bread 16,415 5.60%
Fresh Desserts 7,507 2.60%
Frozen Waffles 5,821 2.00%
Milk 4,650 1.60%
Ice Cream 3,496 1.20%
Source: Nielsen

Fall-Influenced Beverage Growth

Beverage categories also drove growth last year, with beer and cider landing in in fifth and 12th places, respectively. Pumpkin beer definitely appears most often in fall months, and 92 percent of pumpkin-tinged beer is sold August-October 2012. And the popularity is growing. This year, pumpkin beer sales have already seen an uptick from 2012, and they hit the shelves earlier than in 2011. And the early arrival is paying off. Sales of one of the top pumpkin beer offerings from 2012 were up 366 percent for the four weeks ending Aug. 17, 2013 compared with the previous year.

Growth Patches

Pumpkin flavored $ Change (000) % Growth vs Year Ago
Baked Bread 10,479 176.5
Cream 10,239 57.9
Coffee 8,244 33.7
Frozen Sweet Goods 5,146 763.1
Beer 4,087 22.3
Fresh Desserts 1,935 34.7
Baking Mixes 1,628 7.5
Snack Cake 1,232 106.5
Coffee Creamers 974 141.5
Cream Cheese 950 80.7
Yogurt 849 165.5
Cider 563 453.7
Source: Nielsen

Could other fall flavors be far behind? While we don’t know yet exactly how pumpkin will do in 2013, it will likely pack a punch in retailers’ sales across categories.