(NEW YORK) — Once reserved for the holiday pie and jack-o’-lanterns, America is embracing the pumpkin in a huge way. From lattes to beer to candles and car deodorizers, there’s scarcely a product line that doesn’t include the giant gourds, which supporters say can even improve your love life.
It’s not clear how and where the pumpkin craze began, but Starbucks was certainly an early mover. Eleven years ago, the world’s largest coffee chain rolled out its Pumpkin Latte, though recently the chain has upped the ante on its pumpkin products. A promotional Facebook page on the drink reportedly crashed shortly after it was launched last month.
Chains featuring pumpkin on their menu have increased 38 percent since 2010, according to the Menu Monitor Trend-Tracking tool by Technomic, a food research and consulting company.
Dunkin’ Donuts is offering pumpkin cream cheese and pumpkin muffins, to go with its glazed pumpkin cake donuts and pumpkin coffee. At Einstein Bros., there are two types of pumpkin bagels and a new pumpkin scone. And frozen custard brand Culver’s is rolling out three new desserts with pumpkin flavoring mixed in. Sonic even has a pumpkin pie shake.
First seen as an offbeat entry into the drink marketplace, it seems as though it’s the rare coffee outlet that doesn’t include pumpkin on the menu. Caribou Coffee’s newest pumpkin line, which it calls Pumpkin Perfected, includes pumpkin white chocolate mocha, pumpkin bread and pumpkin chai tea.
Pumpkin beers seemingly hit stores earlier than ever before, with some being spotted in late July.
Pumpkin and fermented yeast were combined in the late 1980s when California-based Buffalo Bill’s Brewery debuted its Pumpkin Ale. Since then, more than 100 breweries have followed with their versions, including the big boys.
Anheuser-Busch InBev’s Shock Top and MillerCoors’ Blue Moon both have pumpkin beers. The popular seasonal beer category even saw an entry by Sam Adams this year, which made a small batch of a brew called Fat Jack, made with 28 pounds of real pumpkin in each barrel, the company says.
And then there’s the alleged amorous properties of pumpkins. Seattle’s Best Coffee held a nationwide contest in August to create its next drink. The winner was Eileen Gannon, whose coffee included caramelized bacon and pumpkin spice flavors.
Gannon called the drink “How to Win a Guy With One Sip,” citing a study that found that pumpkin pie scent was an aphrodisiac for men. The study, conducted last year by the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation of Chicago, said that the smell of pumpkin got 40 percent of the subjects aroused.
And there’s no problem finding that smell should you need some. Scent producer Yankee Candle makes its spiced pumpkin scent in candles, room spray and car deodorizers.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Matt Egan, CNN
Kathryn Vasel and Jill Disis, CNN
Heather Hourigan, CNN