Too Soon for Pumpkin Spice?

What chains and products launched in early August and what more to expect
Pumpkin spice beverages from 7-Eleven, Alltown Fresh, Wawa
Photographs courtesy of 7-Eleven, Alltown Fresh, Wawa

The summer of 2023 is shaping up to be the hottest on record, but that didn’t stop the influx of pumpkin-flavored coffees, baked goods and more on chain menus as soon as the calendar flipped to August.

7-Eleven was first out of the gate, giving customers “the first taste of fall” on Aug. 1 with the launch of Pumpkin Spice Latte (PSL) and Pumpkin Coffee, boasting that “it’s earlier than ever this year.”

  • 7-Eleven is No. 1 on CSP’s 2023 Top 202 ranking of U.S. convenience-store chains by store count.

The convenience-store’s PSL is available through Oct. 31 at 7-Eleven, Speedway and Stripes stores nationwide. The annual release only beat out the 2022 release by a couple of days. The 2022 release occurred on Aug. 5. It usually debuts in September.

The PSL features seasonal spices atop a creamy pumpkin-flavored latte. 7-Eleven is also offering Pumpkin Pie Coffee and Pumpkin Syrup.

Meanwhile, 7-Eleven recommends its Pumpkin Somethin’ recipe hack by adding two pumpkin spice and two sweet and creamy creamers to any hot or iced coffee.

Customers can also enjoy 7-Eleven’s limited-time Apple Cider Donut, an old-fashioned ring cake doughnut that is glazed and coated with an apple cider sauce. Other apple-flavored bakery items include the Apple Snack Pie and the Apple Danish, available through 7Rewards and Speedy Rewards for $1. The Pumpkin Muffin will be available later in August, the chain said.

“We know our customers wait all year long for their favorite fall flavors, so we decided to break out the pumpkin a little bit early this year,” said Dennis Phelps, Irving, Texas-based 7-Eleven’s senior vice president of merchandising for vault and proprietary beverages. “It may not quite feel like fall outside yet, but it sure can taste like fall as we enjoy the first Pumpkin Spice Latte of the season.”

While 7-Eleven was the first, Wawa revealed its fall beverage lineup in mid-August, including a Pumpkin Spice Iced Macchiato with Cold Foam, a Pumpkin Spice Latte and a Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake Smoothie. Alltown Fresh is also offering a limited-time bean-to-cup pumpkin spice coffee.

What—and when—will other c-store chains come out with this fall? In previous years, Rutter’s offered Pumpkin Pie Milk, Pilot had a Cinnabon pumpkin spice cappuccino and bourbon pecan drip coffee, along with special edition bean-to-cup coffee called Machu Picchu, Peru and a pumpkin spice creamer. Casey’s has offered PSLs and creamer, plus caramel apple cookies, churro doughnuts, pumpkin cake doughnuts and more, while Circle K previously offered pumpkin spice and harvest spice coffee.

And as far as products, the first half of August has seen releases including Oreo Pumpkin Spice and Little Bites Pumpkin Muffins.

Retailers and consumers still have a lot to look forward to in terms of pumpkin products. Hostess Iced Pumpkin Cupcakes and Pumpkin Spice Twinkies have been a consistent fall launch, and there’s also Ben & Jerry’s Pumpkin Cheesecake ice cream, RxBar’s Pumpkin Spice editions, Voortman Pumpkin Spice and S’mores wafers, Milano Pumpkin Spice cookies and Jet Puffed Pumpkin Spice Marshmallows to anticipate. Dunkin’ and Pepperidge Farms launched Pumpkin Spice Graham flavored Goldfish last year. Will they make a return?

The pumpkin craze doesn’t stop with the convenience channel.

Krispy Kreme’s pumpkin debut came a week later than 7-Eleven’s on Aug. 7, with two classics—the Pumpkin Spice Original Glazed Doughnut and the old-fashioned Pumpkin Spice Cake Doughnut. Joining them for 2023 are the Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake Swirl Doughnut and Pumpkin Spice Maple Pecan Doughnut. The chain is also offering iced, frozen and hot Pumpkin Spice Coffees and Lattes.

“It’s one day earlier than last year,” said Dave Skena, global chief brand officer for Krispy Kreme, “but 2022 was significantly earlier than the year before.” Krispy Kreme’s ads “wink” at the fact that it’s still very hot outside. But it seems that pumpkin spice fans seem more than ready.

Indeed, the start of pumpkin spice season has steadily creeped into August since Starbucks debuted its first Pumpkin Spice Latte 20 years ago. Back in 2003, it was clearly positioned as a seasonal limited-time offer (LTO) for fall, patterned after the coffee giant’s top-selling Eggnog Latte and Peppermint Latte during the holidays, according to the Starbucks archives.

In the summer of 2022, this granddaddy of PSLs made its appearance on Aug. 23, but rumor has it that Aug. 24 is this year’s launch date. “At the moment we’re currently enjoying Starbucks latest summer sip, Frozen Lemonade Starbucks Refreshers, and are not quite ready to welcome fall yet,” a Starbucks spokesperson told CSP sister publication Restaurant Business.

And Dunkin’ is reportedly introducing the 2023 pumpkin crop next week, according to a spokesperson: “While we can't spill the beans just yet on all things fall, Dunkin’ is getting ready to spice things up this season starting August 16.” That’s a day earlier than last year and two days earlier than 2022.

Why the rush?

“Consumers seem to want it earlier every year and they are voting with their pocketbooks,” said Skena. “Maybe the fact that this summer is hotter makes them hopeful that cooler weather is ahead when they get that first taste of pumpkin. We asked ourselves ‘are we jumping the shark’ this year, and the answer was ‘no’.”  

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