With temperatures cooling and the fall season in full swing, chains and independents alike are luring in customers with beverages featuring a classic autumn flavor: pumpkin.
Research firm Technomic noted that there has been a 38-percent increase of pumpkin’s presence on menus since 2010.
“Pumpkin is a flavor that instantly evokes thoughts of autumn,” said Keith Stewart, director of marketing at Così, which this year will offer its Pumpkin Spice Latte to customers through the fall season.
And while there is never a shortage of menu items featuring the seasonal flavor, this year has seen an increase of pumpkin beverages, in particular.
According to market research firm Datassential MenuTrends, the penetration of pumpkin on beverage menus at the top restaurant chains and independents in the U.S. has increased steadily over the last 5 years. And since 2007, it has increased by 400 percent, Datassential found.
Deerfield, Ill.-based Così has offered its pumpkin-flavored latte periodically since 2004, and Stewart said it has since become a favorite among customers.
“It’s a flavor that brings on nostalgia, just as the fall season does,” he said. “Because it’s so closely tied to the season, customers are instantly attracted to it.”
Così isn’t the only chain tapping into consumers' desire to sip pumpkin-flavored drinks. Earlier this month, Dunkin’ Donuts reprised its popular fall menu, which features a line of pumpkin-flavored coffees and lattes, and Einstein Bros. Bagels this year has added new items to its lineup of pumpkin products that the subsidiary of Lakewood, Colo.-based Einstein Noah Restaurant Group has been offering for more than ten years.
The fast-casual chain has added a Frozen Pumpkin Latte this year, which chief executive Jeff O’Neill said was based on a demand from consumers that needed to be filled. “We study category trends and see what’s resonating more and more with consumers,” O’Neill said. “There has been an increase in consumer demand for indulgent frozen beverages, so our culinary team developed the [Frozen Pumpkin Latte] based on that trend.”
Pumpkin cocktails gain traction
While many consumers are getting their pumpkin fix in the form of iced and hot coffees, those looking for something with a little more kick have additional options, as pumpkin cocktails are gaining traction at independent restaurants and bars across the country.
At Southern Art and Bourbon Bar in Atlanta, Ga., mixologist Arianne Fielder recently developed a new Spiced Pumpkin cocktail for the restaurant’s bar menu. “The demand for pumpkin anything is fierce in fall,” Fielder said. “I wanted to create something that would feed that need.”
The cocktail features rye whiskey, pumpkin purée, pumpkin pie spice, lemons and a teaspoon of maple syrup, all mixed into boiling water. The drink, which will be available through the end of December and sells for $12, is a huge hit with patrons, according to Fielder.
“Customers love this cocktail. Something about the fall, pumpkins and hot drinks makes sense,” she said.
Similarly, American Seasons is one of the numerous independent restaurants and bars serving up alcoholic beverages infused with pumpkin. For the third year in a row, the Nantucket, Mass.-based restaurant that specializes in a creative interpretation of regional American dishes will offer customers its Drunken Pumpkin cocktail, incorporating its goal of using local and seasonal ingredients in its beverage menu.
“We weave local, in-season produce into house made infusions and simple syrups,” said Orla Murphy-LaScola, co-owner and beverage director at American Seasons. “We serve the Drunken Pumpkin in the fall when sugar pumpkins are available on the island.”
The cocktail, which costs $13, is made by boiling down the sugar pumpkins and soaking them in vodka. The infusion is then shaken with brown sugar simple syrup and garnished with a cinnamon stick. The drink continues to be a big hit with customers, Murphy-LaScola said.
Pumpkin-flavored beverages not only feed a growing consumer demand this time of year, but restaurant chains say they pay off on the business end as well.
“Our pumpkin lineup is one of our most successful traffic-driving programs,” Einstein Bros. O’Neill said. “Our guests have a strong attachment to our pumpkin program which brings them the nostalgic feeling of warmth and comfort.”
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