According to foot-traffic data from analytics company Placer.ai, Starbucks' annual launch of its fall-themed Pumpkin Spice Latte (PSL) resulted in a significant increase in visits to the coffee giant. The PSL made its comeback along with Starbucks' fall menu on Aug. 24, marking the 20th year of this popular beverage.

Placer.ai's Head of Content, Shira Petrack, noted that Starbucks excels in driving traffic to its venues during otherwise unremarkable times through seasonal menus and special promotions. One such promotion, called "WinsDays," enticed Starbucks Rewards members with a 50% discount on cold drinks ordered through the company's app on selected Wednesdays in July and August. This promotion not only increased traffic during the midweek lull but also created anticipation for the main event of the month—the return of the Pumpkin Spice Latte.

When the fall-themed drink finally hit Starbucks stores on August 24th, visits experienced another spike. Petrack explained that visits to Starbucks on the launch day of the Pumpkin Spice Latte had been steadily increasing in the years leading up to the pandemic. However, they understandably declined significantly in 2020. Although foot traffic trends improved in 2021 and 2022, visits on the PSL's return day remained below the levels seen in 2018-2019.

However, this year's fall menu rollout successfully drove a remarkable 25.1% increase in visits on launch day compared to the Pumpkin Spice Latte drop day in 2017. This surge represents the largest spike in recent years, highlighting the enduring appeal of this seasonal beverage.

The Pumpkin Spice Latte Effect: Starbucks and the Fall Flavor Frenzy

Placer.ai recently reported that Starbucks experienced a staggering 41.1% surge in visits on the Saturday following this year's highly-anticipated launch of their iconic Pumpkin Spice Latte (PSL). In comparison, the increase was 29.5% during the same period after the 2022 PSL launch.

In a time when tight budgets and wavering consumer confidence prevail, the allure of indulging in the nostalgic and comforting flavors of the fall season seems particularly enticing. The option to treat oneself to an affordable delight has been a welcome respite for many.

Starbucks didn't stop at the PSL, though. On August 24, they introduced two new seasonal beverages: the Iced Apple Crisp Oatmilk Shaken Espresso and the Iced Pumpkin Cream Chai Tea Latte. Additionally, a new addition to their menu was the tantalizing Baked Apple Croissant.

While Starbucks has seen its stock rise by 7.7% this year, outpacing the S&P 500 index's gain of 9.9%, it is worth noting that they are not the only company capitalizing on the pumpkin spice craze. Dunkin' Donuts brought back its Pumpkin Spice Signature Latte a week prior to Starbucks, intensifying the competition in this seasonal frenzy.

Evidence of this pervasive pumpkin spice mania extended beyond coffee shops as well. Last month, Anheuser-Busch InBev’s Busch Beer unveiled its Pumpkin Spice Dog Brew, a non-alcoholic treat for our furry friends made from vegetables, spices, and water. This clever product launch further cemented the cultural impact of pumpkin spice.

According to market researcher NielsenIQ, retail sales of pumpkin-flavored products reached a staggering $803 million in the 52-week period ending in late July 2023, marking an impressive 15% increase compared to the previous 52-week period. However, it is important to note that unit sales, which measure the actual number of pumpkin-flavored products purchased, experienced a slight decline of 1.5% during the same period.

The pumpkin spice phenomenon continues to captivate our taste buds and elicit strong emotions as we eagerly embrace the essence of autumn. As we marvel at the success and embrace these seasonal delights, it is clear that pumpkin spice has become an integral part of our fall traditions.

Charles Passy contributed

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