Pumpkin Spice and Everything Nice: A Look at Coffee Drinker Habits

November is here, holiday decorations have been in stores for weeks, and we are well into pumpkin spice season. The media loves to hate on pumpkin spice but food manufacturers have doubled down with products such as pumpkin spice hummus and pumpkin spice popcorn hitting the shelves. Is this a trend that is on its way out, or has pumpkin spice earned its place in the annals of flavor history? Time to check in with 1,000 US coffee drinkers and gauge their opinions on seasonal food and drink.

A Coffee a Day Keeps the Grumpy Away

  • 91% of coffee enthusiasts drink coffee daily, with 54% saying they drink it several times a day. Men aged 45-64 were more likely to drink coffee several times a day, while women were more likely to drink it once per day.
  • 80% “always” drink caffeinated coffee, 17% drink both caffeinated and decaffeinated, and 4% drink only decaffeinated. Consumers aged 25-34 were more likely to “always” drink caffeinated coffee.
  • 86% drink their coffee in the morning, 11% in the afternoon, 2% like an evening cup, and less than 1% drink coffee at night

 

Wake Up and Smell the Coffee

For coffee drinkers, that first cup of coffee is part of a morning ritual that gets the day started off right. The majority of our respondents make their first cup at home (82%), 9% wait until they get to work, and 8% purchase their coffee from a coffee shop/restaurant. Consumers aged 55+ were more likely to make their coffee at home.

86% of our respondents purchase their coffee at a shop/restaurant at least once a month. Among these respondents, Starbucks was the most popular location for purchasing coffee, chosen by 36%. Women and consumers aged 35-44 were more likely to be Starbucks patrons. Dunkin’ Donuts was next with 20%, then McDonald’s with 15%, and 12% said they shop at a locally owned and operated coffee shop. Consumers aged 45-64 and those with household income less than $25,000 were more likely to purchase their coffee from McDonald’s. The following coffee chains were chosen by 2% or lower – Peet’s Coffee & Tea, Caribou Coffee Company, Dutch Bros. Coffee, Seattle’s Best Coffee, The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Coffee Beanery, and Tully’s Coffee.

 

Coffee Is an Art Form

With most things in life, there are purists and there are those who like to mix it up a bit. When it comes to coffee, some like it unadulterated, some like it with cream, and some like it flavored. 77% of the coffee drinkers we surveyed said they drink flavored coffees “all the time” or “occasionally”. Women were more likely to say they drink flavored coffee “all the time”, while Men were more likely to choose “never”. Among those respondents, the favorite coffee flavors were:

  1. Hazelnut (24%)
  2. Vanilla (24%)
  3. Caramel (18%)
  4. Chocolate (11%)
  5. Pumpkin Spice (10%)

Write-in responses included almond, blueberry, coconut, and maple pecan.

 

You Had Me at Pumpkin Spice

And now for the pumpkin spice portion of our survey. Our respondents were somewhat evenly split when asked if they look forward to pumpkin spice season with 45% saying they definitely do and 56% saying pumpkin spice has gone too far. When asked if they agree/disagree with the following statements about pumpkin spice:

Yay

  • 38% agreed -“A good pumpkin spice latte is a thing of beauty.”
  • 35% agreed – “Pumpkin spice flavored foods/beverages should be available all year long.”
  • 33% agreed – “I look forward to pumpkin spice season all year long.”

Nay

  • 33% agreed – “The world would be a better place if pumpkin spice was only used for pumpkin pie.”
  • 29% agreed – “I would be happy if I never heard the words ‘pumpkin spice’ ever again.”
  • 19% agreed – “‘Pumpkin’ and ‘spice’ should never be in the same sentence”

 

Just Say “No” to Pumpkin Spice

One reason that pumpkin spice has become the target of hatred and ire is the explosion of seemingly random pumpkin spice flavored foods and beverages. After pumpkin pie, of course, it was coffee that started the trend and bumped pumpkin spice into flavor popularity. Consumers are willing to accept pumpkin spice as a flavor for desserts and sweet treats but attempts to use it with savory foods and beverages have caused consumers to turn up their noses. The list below contains actual pumpkin spice products sold in stores. Of those, the least popular among our respondents were:

  • Sparkling water
  • Hummus
  • Gum
  • Potato chips
  • Nuts
  • Liquor
  • Energy bars

Unsurprisingly, the most popular pumpkin spice flavored foods among our respondents were coffee, coffee creamer, and cookies.

 

The Takeaway

Coffee drinkers have strong (get it?) opinions about coffee and caffeine is king. Even in a world full of coffee purists, flavored coffees are increasingly popular. Pumpkin spice is here to stay but let’s be sensible when choosing foods/beverages for the pumpkin spice treatment. Nobody wants to eat pumpkin spice hummus, nobody.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Allie Smith
Allie Smith is the former Director of Charts for eMarketer with over 15 years of experience in the world of market research. Her love for charts and graphs is only outweighed by her love for her whippets. She spends her free time watching Law & Order reruns while knitting cute hats for dogs.