The Pumpkin Spice Trade


You don’t need us to tell you: the pumpkin spice is great.

What Forbes once described as a $ 600 million “pumpkin spice industrial complex”,The activity of creating products that feed an obsession with the taste of fall is huge, taking the form of spiced pumpkin donuts and coffee with vodka and candles. And in an area home to the legend of Sleepy Hollow, corn mazes, and apple picking, the Hudson Valley and the businesses in its region have a front row seat to the annual fall pumpkin and spice craze. .

“I’ve had cafes in the past where customers expected us to have pumpkin spice products, so I made sure that was part of my business plan for the fall when I opened this store in June, ”says chef and Lucky Sparrow Kitchen owner Renee Alexander, who is launching a pumpkin and spice milk muffin, soup, flavored coffee syrup and a cookie on October 1. at his Margaretville restaurant.

She received inquiries about pumpkin spice right after Labor Day, and her restaurant’s Instagram poll got over 175 “Yes” votes to whether to include spices in the pumpkin on the menu.

Alexander herself once owned a unique perch to observe the pumpkin spice palooza firsthand.

“Having worked in digital marketing for Dunkin ‘Donuts, when the PSL [Pumpkin Spice Latte] trend launched in the early 2000s, I can confirm that this is indeed a major national phenomenon, ”she says. “But certainly in upstate New York we need the warming effects of spices like cinnamon and cloves more.”

While PSL detractors mock the ubiquitous pumpkin spice and its fans as “staple,” many more happily board the seasonal taste train, which shows no signs of stopping.

Tastewise, an AI-powered food intelligence solution that offers industry insight to big brands like PepsiCo, Nestlé and General Mills, found several data points on the interest of pumpkin spices in the industry. ‘Empire State, based on analysis of restaurant and delivery menus, social interactions, and millions of digital recipes.

“Consumer interest in dairy-free pumpkin spice products is up 38% year-over-year locally,” said Miriam Aniel, head of content and research at Tastewise. She notes that pumpkin and spice donuts in particular are emerging as a favorite commodity in New York City, with consumer interest increasing 20% ​​year over year.

In the Hudson Valley and the Catskills, the public’s insatiable appetite for all things pumpkin spice means companies need to plan their products earlier each year.

Take Harney & Sons teas at Millerton, a premium tea supplier that sells over 300 varieties, including, yes, a pumpkin and spice flavored tea. Alex Harney, the third-generation owner, says they regularly sell the Rooibos-based seasonal herb blend every year and start receiving inquiries as early as June.

“Customers love the heartwarming flavors and the feeling of falling encapsulated in a drink or food,” said Harney, who added that he found the mania a little fun because customers aren’t really looking for the ‘pumpkin’ flavor. as much as the spices associated with it.

“Maybe it reminds them of Thanksgiving meals and being with loved ones. I don’t think it’s regionally related as it works well across the country, but maybe since we live in a more seasonal area it hits a bit harder.

Awestruck Ciders makes a seasonal pumpkin and spice hard cider called Hometown Homicider, which is one of the top sellers for them, beating nationally distributed brands at a local grocery store. “Customers start asking at the beginning of August each year,” says co-founder Patricia Wilcox.

Amazed ciders

Elsewhere in the Hudson Valley, companies like the Hudson Valley Marshmallow Company in Beacon, which sells direct locally and wholesalers across the country, are also reporting great consumer enthusiasm for spice products. with pumpkin. Inquiries for their pumpkin-spice marshmallow – one of their most popular seasonal products – begin in August, with consumer interest starting earlier each year, according to the company.

Due to supply chain issues related to the pandemic this year, the company had to push back the seasonal marshmallow release date until the end of September. They already have a waiting list. Brendan McAlpine, president of Hudson Valley Marshmallow Company, attributes the allure of spiced pumpkin dishes to the nostalgia factor.

“They just taste like fall, and since most pumpkin spice products are limited versions, people go crazy for the few months they’re on the market,” he says.

Dave Maffei, owner of Halfsies Cookie Company, a Marlboro-based bakery that sells exclusively online to consumers nationwide, also believes nostalgia plays a big part in the pumpkin spice obsession.

“I think there is a certain nostalgia that comes with pumpkin pie spice and if you can trap those warm feelings in a cookie then people are going to get going,” he says.

Currently, Halfsies sells Pumpkin Spice Infused Snickerdoodles, Cinnamon Bun Cookies, and Peanut Butter Cookies, among other pumpkin flavored baked goods. This isn’t the only regional store to take advantage of the flavor, as Samuel’s Sweet Shop in Rhinebeck sells pumpkin-spiced malted milk scoops among its fall goodies.

If there was a regional jumping off point for pumpkin spice season, it might be Stewart’s Shops, headquartered in Saratoga Springs with 355 convenience stores in 32 counties in New York and Vermont. Stewart’s doubles up on pumpkin spice, their best-selling pumpkin at Talk About Ice Cream (pumpkin ice cream, plus a cheesecake swirl and churro pieces available in prepackaged pints) and pumpkin muffins , pumpkin spice coffee and pumpkin pies in November.

“We start to see interest in pumpkin spice products in mid-August, as the nights start to cool down and families begin to prepare for the kids’ return to school.” , explains Erica Komoroske, director of public affairs at Stewart’s. Playing on customers’ weakness for pumpkin spice, the company brews pumpkin spice coffee in glass jars in the fall, “so the aroma hits you as soon as you walk into the store.” .

Hudson Valley Skin Care, a Dutchess County-based store, sells four pumpkin and spice products, individually or as a collection.

Hudson Valley Skin Care, a Dutchess County-based store, sells four pumpkin and spice products, individually or as a collection. “People love our batch of pumpkin spice – we can’t keep it on the shelves,” says founder Cathie Arpino.

Hudson Valley Skin Care

Adult drinks aren’t to be overlooked on the pumpkin spice front, either. Brian Mulder, co-owner of Union Grove Distillery in Arkville, Catskills, makes a pumpkin spice infused vodka using fresh pumpkins and local flavors.

“We only offer this at the distillery – some people have asked to buy bottles of infused vodka, but at the moment we don’t offer it by the bottle,” he says.

Two of the most popular fall drinks sold at the distillery that are made with the special seasonal vodka are a Russian pumpkin for a seasonal twist on a white Russian, and the so-called pumpkin pie, which combines vodka with pumpkin spices with maple syrup in tree juice. and New York apple cider.

“[Making these drinks] gives us a great opportunity to support [businesses], which we try to do as much as possible, ”he adds. Drinks have such a fan that some customers ask for them out of season as well. Unfortunately we have to inform them that this is only a fall special. “

Meanwhile, Awestruck Ciders in Sidney, a town in Delaware County, also hopped aboard the Pumpkin and Spice Train, making the Hometown Homicider, a pumpkin and spice hard cider. “Customers start asking at the beginning of August each year. We always try to get out in time for the Dutchess County Fair, because it’s a very popular product there, ”said co-founder Patricia Wilcox of the cider they’ve been making every year since 2015.

“Hometown Homicider represented more than half of our production in August. We partner with local retailers to sell our products, and one year in the month of October, Hometown Homicider was the single best-selling alcoholic beverage – surpassing even world-famous and nationally-distributed brands – in our hometown grocery store, ”she said.

Since the Hometown Homicider is aged in bourbon casks, the cider exhibits extra depth and a subtle caramel smoke that “encapsulates the slight weirdness of those chilly fall evenings,” Wilcox said of the runaway success.

The aroma of pumpkin spice, not just the flavor, is also popular. Hudson Valley Skin Care, a Pleasant Valley-based store that sells products in Hudson Valley stores and online, offers four pumpkin spice products: bar soap, foaming soap for hands, soy wax candle, and bedroom and laundry spray.

People start clamoring to ride the pumpkin wave around the end of August, founder Cathie Arpino said. “People love our batch of pumpkin spice – we can’t keep it on the shelves. People love the collection because it represents autumn in the valley. Fall is by far the best season to come to the upstate… It brings out the happy memories people associate with the season, ”she says.

“We love to bring a little fall joy into people’s daily lives. “

Perri Blumberg is a New York-born and based writer who grew up spending her summers in Woodridge, Sullivan County. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Columbia University and is a culinary school graduate of what is now the Natural Gourmet Center of the Institute Of Culinary Education. Follow her on Twitter @ 66PerriStreet.

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