Farm Babe: The ever-pervasive pumpkin spice craze


Nothing seems to have been better for the pumpkin industry than the tongue-in-cheek “basic girl” persona, that characterization of someone as unoriginal, unexceptional, and overtly mainstream — the very kind of person fueling the pumpkin flavoring and pumpkin spice crazes.

Forty percent of the nation’s pumpkins come from six states (in order of 2021 production): Illinois, California, Indiana, Texas, Virginia, and Michigan. With its focus on pumpkin-pie varieties, Illinois is by far the leading producer, growing more pumpkins than the next five top states combined. One acre of pumpkins yields an average of 23,300 pounds, but this can vary considerably based on the variety of pumpkin and where it is grown. Pumpkins can range in size from less than a pound to over 1,000 pounds depending on the variety!

About 15 percent of pumpkins grown are used for processed products, like canned pumpkin, pumpkin pies, and other pre-flavored goods. Pumpkin is a great flavor and even better nutrition, providing more than 200 percent of your daily vitamin A, 20 percent of vitamin C, and more potassium than bananas. The average American consumes roughly 6.5 pounds of pumpkin every year, mostly because we consider this a “seasonal” item. Libby’s, one of the most prominent canned pumpkin companies (selling more than 90 percent of this market), sells the bulk of it’s inventory in between October and January.

As summer begins to fade and fall begins to trend we see the rise of the great, almighty pumpkin.

That’s where pumpkin spice comes in. I’ve seen some wild things, but the this craze sometimes have me baffled. Pumpkin-spice really saw a great jump in consumer purchases through the coffee market, especially fueled by the big companies like Starbucks and Dunkin’. However, now you can practically get pumpkin-spiced anything.

Food based items of course. Pumpkin spiced almonds, chips, hummus, etc.

Pumpkin-spiced toothpaste? Yup. Deodorant? Yup!

You can even wash your dog and your car in pumpkin spice!

Almost anything can be found with a pumpkin-spice variety in the fall. Sales of dog food, cereal, and liquid coffee have experienced the highest demand and correlated sales in the pumpkin-spice realm. Seasonal or limited edition items spark the “I have to buy it now because I may never get the chance again!” mentality in consumers. In addition, shock-value of products you’d never expect to be seasonal flavors can encourage consumers to purchase a product just to try it. Even moreso now with the rise of social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram Reels, where consumers see their peers trying wacky products and succumb to the peer pressure to try it themselves, all the while continuing to drive sales regardless of the actual product quality.

This article by Food Dive explains some of the recent trends in crazy products like mustard flavored ice-cream, macaroni and cheese ice cream, and even bologna inspired face masks!

Pumpkin-flavored products rake in over $500 million for companies each year, and it continues to increase. These trendy items come with a price, with many products experiencing a “flavor mark-up” or “pumpkin-spice tax” that averages 8.8 percent, not that it bothers consumes as sales continue to increase.

All in all, seasonal items like these tend to elevate agricultural products, making a niche market profitable for many producers. The rise in fall, Halloween, and pumpkin-spice aesthetics will continue to provide opportunities for pumpkin growers, including processing pumpkins, fresh market pumpkins, and decorative pumpkin variety growers. All hail the pumpkins!

Michelle Miller, the “Farm Babe,” is an internationally recognized keynote speaker, writer, and social media influencer and travels full time to advocate for agriculture. She comes from an Iowa-based row crop and livestock farming background and now resides on a timber farm in North Central Florida.

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