Starbucks’ annual launch of its fall-themed Pumpkin Spice Latte sparked a spike in visits to the coffee giant, according to foot-traffic data from analytics company Placer.ai.
The Pumpkin Spice Latte, or PSL, made its return with the launch of Starbucks’ SBUX, +0.37% fall menu on Aug. 24, marking the 20th year that the company has offered the beverage. “Starbucks excels in driving traffic to its venues during otherwise unremarkable times through recurring seasonal menus and special promotions,” wrote Placer.ai’s Head of Content Shira Petrack, in a blog post, citing the company’s “WinsDays” promotion that offered Starbucks Rewards members 50% off cold drinks ordered through the company’s app on certain Wednesdays in July and August.
“The promotion drove traffic to the chain during the typical midweek lull and may have gotten visitors excited about the main event later in the month — the return of the Pumpkin Spice Latte,” Petrack added. “So when the fall-themed drink hit Starbucks stores on Thursday August 24th, visits spiked once more.”
Petrack explained that visits to Starbucks on the Pumpkin Spice Latte launch day had been on a steady upward trend in the years leading up to the pandemic before, understandably, falling significantly in 2020. “And while the foot traffic trends improved in 2021 and 2022, Starbucks visits on the day of the PSL’s return still remained below 2018-2019 levels,” she wrote. However, this year’s fall menu rollout drove a 25.1% increase in visits on launch day, compared to 2017’s PSL drop day, marking the largest spike in recent years.
Placer.ai also noted that on the Saturday after this year’s Pumpkin Spice Latte launch, Starbucks visits surged by 41.1%, compared with the 29.5% increase on the Saturday following the 2022 PSL launch.
“During a period when budgets are still tight and consumer confidence is shaky, the option to splurge on an affordable treat and indulge in the comfort and nostalgia of the fall flavors may seem particularly attractive,” Petrack wrote.
Starbucks also launched two new seasonal beverages on Aug. 24: the Iced Apple Crisp Oatmilk Shaken Espresso and Iced Pumpkin Cream Chai Tea Latte. It also introduced a new Baked Apple Croissant.
The company’s stock has risen 7.7% this year, compared with the S&P 500 index’s SPX gain of 9.9%.
Of course, Starbucks is not the only company tapping into the pumpkin-spice craze. Dunkin’ Donuts brought back its Pumpkin Spice Signature Latte on Aug. 16, a full week before Starbucks dropped its PSL.
Further evidence of pumpkin spice mania came last month when Anheuser-Busch InBev’s Busch Beer released Pumpkin Spice Dog Brew. The non-alcoholic dog treat is made with vegetables, spices and water.
According to market researcher NielsenIQ, sales of pumpkin-flavored retail products were $803 million for the 52-week period ending in late July 2023, an increase of almost 15% on the prior 52-week period. However, unit sales, or the actual number of pumpkin-flavored products purchased, declined 1.5% for the 52-week period ending in late July.
Charles Passy contributed