How pumpkin moved beyond the pie, and into curries, cereal bars, and M&Ms…

By Elaine WATSON

- Last updated on GMT

Virginia Dare: 'Pumpkin connects with the consumer as being native American, locovore, retro-comfort'
Virginia Dare: 'Pumpkin connects with the consumer as being native American, locovore, retro-comfort'

Related tags: Flavor, Spice

While pumpkin pie is a seasonal staple, an analysis of takeout orders from GrubHub’s database of 20,000+ restaurants in 500+ US cities shows that the most popular dishes featuring pumpkin are now curries, cheesecakes and ravioli, with pumpkin pie accounting for just 3% of pumpkin orders.

And while there is always a spike in orders at this time of year (more than 27% of orders featuring pumpkin logged by GrubHub in 2012 were placed in October and November) it is increasingly featuring in menu items all-year-round, says GrubHub.

As to who is ordering pumpkin-related dishes, women are 54% more likely to order them than men, says GrubHub, while Thai is the cuisine most likely to feature pumpkin, with nearly 41% of pumpkin dishes on GrubHub’s database found in Thai menus.

Curry, cheesecake and ravioli

The most popular pumpkin dishes ordered by users of GrubHub since October 2010 are:

  • Curry - 54% of pumpkin orders  
  • Cheesecake - 6% of pumpkin orders  
  • Ravioli - 4% of pumpkin orders  
  • Tempura roll - 4% of pumpkin orders  
  • Soup/bisque - 4% of pumpkin orders  
  • Pie - 3% of pumpkin orders    
  • Custard - 3% of pumpkin orders  
  • Tempura - 2% of pumpkin orders  
  • Cake - 1% of pumpkin orders
  • Crispy pumpkin - 1% of pumpkin orders  

Virginia Dare: Pumpkin spice has been getting steadily more popular over the last several years

But what about pumpkin trends in packaged foods, from pumpkin spice M&Ms and Jet Puffed pumpkin spice mallows to Kashi pumpkin spice flax granola bars?

Anton Angelich, group VP marketing at New York-based flavor house Virginia Dare, said he’d still describe pumpkin spice is a ”seasonal taste” ​typically featuring spices used in a pumpkin pie (cinnamon, ginger, clove), the taste of baked pumpkin or squash, and the caramel notes of the baked pie.

Pumpkin connects with the consumer as being native American, locovore, retro-comfort

Pumpkin spice M&Ms

However, it has been getting “more steadily popular over the last several years, and has been incorporated into a variety of baked goods, snacks, candy, desserts, coffee beverages, and liquors”, ​he told FoodNavigator-USA.

“Pumpkin connects with the consumer as being native American, locovore, retro-comfort.”

Pumpkin-curry-with-chickpeas
Pumpkin curry

Greg Kaminski, executive research chef at Synergy Flavors, said: "Pumpkin spice has been around for a number of years and its popularity has been on the rise.  This is the first year that McDonald's is rolling it out in the McCafe concept.  Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts have been offering it for a few years now.

"There are also two different categories for pumpkin spice.  One is the flavor of just the spice component i.e.; cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, clove and allspice and the other is the actual inclusion of a pumpkin flavor in the product." 

He added: "The beer industry has also exploded with both pumpkin spice and pumpkin flavored beers. There is even a pumpkin flavored vodka on the market. All of these products are very seasonal and usually come out on the market about the end of August and run through the end of the year.  You will also see bartenders using more pumpkin puree in craft cocktails during the fall/winter season."

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