The pumpkin flavor craze — do all these products really contain pumpkin?

Lolas pumpkins photoWhat is up with the proliferation of pumpkin flavor everything?

We expect to see pumpkins — the sort used for Jack-O-Lanterns — outside of grocery stores this time of year.

Lately though, the pumpkin thing continues inside the store…from pumpkin spice yogurt and “limited edition” English muffins. Even the Oreo brand is in with their Pumpkin Spice Creme cookies!

Pumpkins used to be a sign that fall is here, Halloween is around the corner and soon, the Thanksgiving holiday will be upon us.

But now, the pumpkin and “pumpkin spice” signals a time of year when all manner of food and beverages are blanketed with this flavor.  Example:

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And just like Christmas songs and Christmas decorations, it comes to us EARLIER each year.

So why is pumpkin and “pumpkin spice” flavor in so many food and beverage products these days (especially since pumpkin by itself is rather bland)?

Starbucks PSL

Starbuck’s PSL (photo via Starbucks.com)

Turns out we can thank Starbucks for the brilliant idea to offer seasonal beverages, and in particular their best-selling Pumpkin Spice Latte  or “PSL”

For around $5, you can get a 20 oz PSL Venti but only for a “limited time”.

But does the drink actually have real pumpkin? Nope, just pumpkin pie spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and clove.

A brilliant marketing idea, right?  Get people to anticipate a drink (just as we would anticipate the holiday season perhaps) which contains spices that are available all year round!

Here are other pumpkin flavor examples:

The “limited batch” pumpkin yogurt by Chobani, which does contain pumpkin…

The Thomas’ “Limited Edition”  English muffins…which also had pumpkin…

Then there’s the Oreo brand cookie with the prominent pumpkin on the packaging and the words “pumpkin spice creme”…

pumnpkin spice oreo cookies web

Pumpkin Spice Oreo ingredients are: Sugar, Unbleached Enriched Flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine, Mononitrate (Vitamin B1) Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Folic Acid, Palm and/or Canola Oil, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Cornstarch, Salt, Baking Soda, Soy Lecithin, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Artificial Color (Yellow 5 Lake, Red 40 Lake, Blue 3 Lake), Paprika Oleoresin (Color)

Do you see any pumpkin on the ingredients list?  Nope!

From the FoodFacts.com blog on the Pumpkin Spice Oreo

We’d like to call your attention to the fact that there is absolutely NO PUMPKIN anywhere in that list. Oh wait, they’re PUMPKIN SPICE Oreos, not PUMPKIN Oreos.

Technically that would mean that these should taste like nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon and anything else we use to flavor actual pumpkin pie. Funny, we don’t see any of those ingredients on the list either. We do, however, see Natural and Artificial Flavors — which of course is what the folks over at Oreos are using to impart the taste of pumpkin pie spices to the cream inside this cookie.

And then, to make it look authentic (because all of those spices carry a rich, deep color), they’ve added a healthy dose of artificial colors.

There are also pumpkin spice teas, beer and other alcohol beverages….like this pumpkin spice whiskey from Rhode Island-based Sons of Liberty…

This one actually has plenty of locally grown pumpkins and actual pumpkin spices, and sounds good!

Food manufacturers are succeeding with the popular pumpkin spice flavor, so this craze is probably here to stay for a while.   (See the 2013 Nielsen’s graph below showing pumpkin flavor products experiencing tremendous growth).

Nielsen pumpkin flavor chart 2013

So I suppose we can enjoy the fall and all the pumpkin and pumpkin spice stuff out there, especially if you happen to like pumpkin spices (I do!).

Just remember, most will probably NOT have real pumpkin, but hopefully there will at least be REAL pumpkin pie spices.  You just have to look at the labels.

Do you like this proliferation of pumpkin and pumpkin spiced food in the market? Wish it will stay or happy if it’s a fad that will soon fade?

Lolas Turbaned-Squashes photo

Turbaned squashes – photo www.Lolako.com  Click on the photo to find out the difference between a pumpkin, a squash and a gourd.

And by the way, if you want to know the difference between a pumpkin, squash or a gourd, here is the link to my post Autumn Time, Pumpkin Time, with fun photos of many varieties now available…everywhere (just like the pumpkin spice everything).

Even the NPR Car Talk guys made a joke about this pumpkin craze in this morning’s program, mentioning their “pumpkin chai brake fluid”.  Oh well…what’s next?

Further reading: Article from Vox.com:  The greatest trick capitalism ever pulled was making you want a pumpkin spice latte.