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Why has pumpkin dominated the food market?

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As Gothamist’s Jen Carlson found, pumpkin products are everywhere. Here are 10 of the almost 40 pumpkin products currently at her local Trader Joe’s grocery store:

Pecan Pumpkin Instant Oatmeal (with “rich pumpkin flavor”)

Pumpkin bar baking mix

Pumpkin pancake and waffle mix

Pumpkin cream cheese muffins

Mini ginger pumpkin ice cream mouthfuls

Pumpkin pie mochi ice cream

Pumpkin bread pudding

Pumpkin macarons

Pumpkin cheesecake

Pumpkin cornbread croutons



Have we reached peak pumpkin? How does one flavor take over the marketplace?

Kantha Shelke, a food chemist and principal at Corvus Blue, says that one big reason pumpkin has become popular is the cost.

“Pumpkin spice is an affordable pleasure. Anybody can have it. And it takes you back to the holidays and you don’t have to travel anywhere,” Shelke says. “You can sit at your desk and go anywhere instantly. And I think that is something that no other food can give us today and that it why pumpkin spice is so popular in the western world.”

Flavors like pumpkin have become easier for food companies to re-create as well. “We are becoming more adventurous because food companies have done a tremendous job of delivering exactly the same notes. If you closed your eyes you would actually think there was a pumpkin pie baking right next to you. We couldn’t do that a few years ago. We can do that today.”

What flavor could be the next pumpkin? Shelke says think spicy.

“I think we’re going to see more peppers. Because while people get used to this nice pumpkin pie spice flavoring, they now want a small kick to it. That kick can come from peppers. And peppers are growing in leaps and bounds. People like peppers. People think that the capsaicin, the heat in the pepper, is good for them.”

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