Porter Novelli

It’s nearing ubiquity, popping up in restaurant menus and grocery store shelves alike. Chocolates, curries and coffees are fully embracing the ingredient. Who knew pumpkin was so versatile?

 Once hailed a seasonal staple, pumpkin is gaining traction as a popular ingredient that is sticking around long after pine wreaths and twinkle lights have retired for the winter.

GrubHub conducted an analysis of takeout orders from more than 20,000 restaurants in more than 500 cities and captured the following insights:

  • While the majority of orders featuring pumpkin are still currently being placed in October and November, the squash varietal is increasingly being featured in menu items year-round.
  • Not surprisingly, women are 54% more inclined to order pumpkin dishes than men.
  • Curry, cheesecake and ravioli are the most popular pumpkin-infused menu items ordered, surpassing pumpkin pie orders!

Why have consumers fallen in love with notes of pumpkin and pumpkin spice? In an interview with Food Navigator on the topic, Anton Angelich, group vice president of marketing at flavor house Virginia Dare, noted that pumpkin connects with consumers as being native American and locovore, and is percieved as a retro comfort food.

What does this mean for food brands?  According to the Hartman Group’s Ideas In Food report published this year, consumers have a greater level of flavor sophistication than they had in years past and are seeking fresh, novel flavors and ingredients. This aligns with the trends around pumpkin flavors as GrubHub noted: pumpkin pie is out and pumpkin curry is in.

Consumer tastes are maturing. Pumpkin spice aside, average Joes to culinary experimenters are being lured by menus and packaged goods hailing flavors and ingredient combos like cranberry chili and whiskey pickles and a number of ethnic flavor profiles.

For food brands, it may be time to engage in recipe development to cater to these novel consumer tastes, increase product appeal and relevance and keep up with American’s evolving palate.