Pumpkin-Spice Payoff


The Starbucks Pumpkin-Spice latte returned in August — earlier than ever before and during a heat wave. Pumpkin-spice lattes — a phrase so popular and used so frequently that it’s been shortened to PSL — are now synonymous with fall and a highly anticipated annual tradition for fans and foodservice operators alike. PSL limited-time offers have been around for more than a decade and are still proving to be a winning promotion. It’s no surprise that Starbucks has referred to its famous latte as the “top-selling seasonal beverage of all time.”

The payoff for chains offering PSL limited-time offers are more visits and a higher average check size. In fact, research conducted by the NPD Group has shown buyers of PSLs visited foodservice units twice as often and had a 10-per-cent higher average check than non-buyers in the 2017 season. PSL purchasers spend an average of $3 more when PSLs are purchased, but they make three times as many non-PSL purchases as they do PSL.

Who are these perennial purchasers of the pumpkin-spice lattes? According to NPD research, they tend to have higher incomes — 60 per cent have a household income of $75,000 and above. PSL fans skew slightly more female (53 per cent) than male and 45 per cent of them are 45 years old or older. More than 60 per cent of pumpkin-spice-latte aficionados do not have children under 18 in the household.

Suffice it to say, it’s a winning strategy for coffee chains to continue to sell pumpkin-spice lattes as a limited-time offer. Consumers anticipate its availability and know the drinks are only around for a short period of time, which creates demand. In addition, pumpkin-spice-latte limited-time offers have a positive impact on visit frequency and check averages, as consumers tend to purchase food along with the beverage. So, in hindsight, it’s no wonder the iconic fall treat is being offered earlier than ever before.

Written by Robert Carter

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