food and beverages

Study: Apple, Caramel Dethrone Pumpkin As Fall Flavor Favorites

It’s not just Marketing Daily reporters who are over pumpkin spice ("I love pumpkin pie, but the only thing I want to taste like pumpkin pie IS pumpkin pie," wrote my colleague Teresa Buyikian in a recent post).

Consumers are also tired of that autumnal mainstay, and feeling the pull of other seasonal flavor options -- namely those featuring apple and caramel. That’s according to a new study from research company System1 Group on fall flavor launches from CPG and QSR brands.

For the study, System1 used its Test Your Idea platform, which asks consumers to rate the likeliness they would buy or sell “shares” in a product idea – an attribute it defines as “predicted acceptance.”



System1 surveyed around 500 consumers, in a sample designed to be nationally representative, and asked participants to evaluate each of the product ideas they presented. They then analyzed the responses to create ratings from 1.0-5.9 stars based on “resulting potential for profit,” with 2.0 representing the “country average.”

Chick-fil-A’s Caramel Milkshake was the clear winner across categories, with 5.6 stars; while Sour Patch Kids Apple Harvest was the runner-up, and top CPG product, with 5.3 stars. Sour Patch Kids Apple Harvest also registered well in consumers’ emotional responses, with 74% responding with happiness (50%) or surprise (24%).  Third place also went to a non-pumpkin offering, with KIND’s Caramel Apple Cinnamon Star earning 4.8 stars, which System1 notes is “150% above normal sales potential.” The product also connected with consumers emotionally, with 62% responding with happiness and 19% with surprise.

Starbucks Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew Latte was the highest rated pumpkin product across categories, at 4.7 stars, suggesting when consumers do want a pumpkin fix they’re more likely to reach for the category’s standard bearer than any of its imitators.

“New flavors fuel the market for seasonal products,” Steve Olenski, System1 group senior vice president, engagement, said in a statement. “Classic apple and caramel flavors are making a comeback because they’re a change from the parade of pumpkin entries over the past several years.”

Of the six CPG fall flavor launches evaluated, all of the pumpkin offerings scored below 2.0. The GoodPop Pumpkin Spice Pop was the highest rated of pumpkin-flavored products at 1.7 stars, and also elicited happiness in nearly a third (31%) of participants.. Red Vines Pumpkin Spice Twists fared the worst of the fall flavored fare at 1.1 stars, while causing over half of respondents (51%) to react with disgust.

It wasn’t just the pumpkin offerings consumers were unenthused about, though. Planters’ Apple Cider Cashews were also a dud at 1.3 stars, while eliciting negative emotional responses in 40% of participants. 

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