Starbucks’ iconic pumpkin spice latte, or PSL, has returned for the fall season. However, data shows that consumer interest in the seasonal flavor, as well as scented products in general, has been declining. Unit sales of pumpkin spice products have been dropping for the past two years, with a 1.5% decrease in the year ending in July. Some experts believe that the trend is diminishing, as big food corporations try to appear innovative by labeling generic products as “pumpkin spice.” Despite the decline, the market for pumpkin spice products alone generated over $802 million in sales in the year ending in July 2023.
Companies have noticed the changing consumer behavior and have begun pulling back on the number of pumpkin spice products they release. In the year ending in July, there were nearly 200 fewer products compared to two years prior. While pumpkin spice may not disappear entirely, these numbers indicate a shift in consumer preferences that businesses will need to monitor closely. Social media and the creator economy have played a significant role in this trend. With the rise of platforms like TikTok and Instagram, viral trends spread quickly, influencing consumer spending. As a result, companies have started releasing seasonal products earlier each year to stay ahead of the competition and seize the opportunity created by these trends.
This accelerated release of seasonal products is driven by the need to keep up with influencers and viral trends. Companies are finding it challenging to control consumer behavior, as they now rely on influencers and social media to dictate which products are popular and when they should be consumed. Even if the weather is still hot, when an influencer says it’s time for a pumpkin spice latte, consumers follow suit. This loss of control forces companies to adapt quickly to meet consumer demands and maintain their market share.