If I never drink another pumpkin chai latte or eat another slice of pumpkin cheesecake, I will be a very happy man. That’s because I feasted on nothing but pumpkin-flavoured foods for 31 pumpkin-spiced days. That was my October, and it was the longest month of my life.
It started as a dare from a coworker: with the glut of pumpkin items clogging grocery store shelves these days, it might be fun for me to eat only pumpkin things for one full week and then report the results. Being a gastronomical daredevil, I foolishly upped the ante by offering up my palate for the entire month of October.
It was, however, a mistake rooted in a very real trend. Ten years ago, when Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte was one of the only pumpkin games in town, such a diet would have been impossible. Since then, sales of pumpkin-flavoured items have soared, and brands are more than happy to supply that demand. In the past year, Americans scarfed down $488 million worth of pumpkin-spiced goodies, according to Nielsen - a 10% increase over the previous year and an all-time high for the past five years.
According to Label Insight, pumpkin spice is a featured flavour claim on the packaging of 446 food and drink products, including 15 different pumpkin-infused offerings in the cereal aisle. In other words, I had plenty of options for my October menu.
Oh sure, ‘The Month of Pumpkin Hell’ started out well enough. I paid a trip to the grocery store and happily loaded up my cart with a literal smorgasbord of trendy fall fare. And, boy, did my cart fill up fast. Pumpkin Pie Pop-Tarts, pumpkin spice coffee K-cups (and some pumpkin spice creamer, of course), Pumpkin Spice Frosted Flakes, pumpkin pie-spiced butter spread, Pumpkin Spice Oreos, and pumpkin-spiced marshmallows, just to name a few items on my menu.
I genuinely love pumpkin, and I was foolishly excited.
By the time I reached the checkout line, the orange glow from my cart was attracting stares from fellow shoppers.
As the items beep, beep, beeped across the scanner, I began to notice a trend. My breakfasts in October looked good. Desserts were covered, too. But the pumpkin patch that would be my dinner menu was noticeably sparse.
That’s not to say that I didn’t find at least some savoury pumpkin offerings. A pumpkin Alfredo sauce (which turned out to be the best thing I ate all month) and some organic pumpkin-spiced chicken sausage from the crafty folks at Nature’s Promise suggested a few seasonally relevant dinners.
My pumpkin-spiced diet took over my reading habits, too. I immersed myself in the trend by reading about how some brands are jumping on the bandwagon by releasing their nutmeg-infused madness on consumers as early as late July (late JULY!).
In what could be good news for some, the pumpkin spiced trend might be waning and could be replaced by another popular fall flavour. As proof, Yelp points to a spike in reviews of apple cider-flavoured goodies.
As for what succeeds pumpkin on shelves after the last of the Thanksgiving leftovers are consumed, eggnog is an annual favourite that’s mainly limited to desserts. Cranberry has also seen a surge in popularity recently, thanks to its status as a superfood.
But my reading habits only reminded me of my limited meal-time options. Come October 26, I was counting down the days.
And so, at 10:35 p.m. on October 31st, I took my last bite. It was a Pepperidge Farm Pumpkin Cheesecake Cookie that was delicious on October 2nd, but nauseating four weeks later. As the clock struck midnight, sweet freedom had arrived.
The silvery-orange lining in this experiment was that I somehow managed to lose eight pounds while on my all-pumpkin diet. Not that I recommend it as a weight-loss strategy - unless you hate your taste buds, in which case, dig in. I’d get you started by giving you a half-eaten box of Pumpkin Spice Frosted Mini Wheats, but I threw that away shortly after midnight on November 1st - right before I raided my daughter’s stash of Halloween candy.
David Shoffner is the communications manager at food and beverage agency quench