China Food

How did the pumpkin flavor representing autumn develop into a multi billion dollar money making tool?

how does Starbucks make pumpkin flavor a special symbol of autumn?

Text: chiyuko Qiu   

Source: foodaily daily food (ID: foodaily)

As time goes by, the autumn of 2021 has come in the twinkling of an eye. After parting from the enthusiasm of the hot summer, the weather is fresh and suitable, quiet and beautiful.
In China, it is popular to welcome autumn with a cup of milk tea. In the circle of friends, various fancy shows “a cup of milk tea in autumn”. In the United States, the first cup of pumpkin latte is undoubtedly the key to opening the door of autumn.
Source: nbcnews
In the fall of 2003, Starbucks launched its first pumpkin flavored latte. At first, pumpkin latte was only tested in 100 stores in Vancouver and Washington. It became a popular product in stores in only a week. Starbucks was greatly encouraged by the great success of the trial sale. In the second year, pumpkin latte was officially listed in the United States and quickly ranked first in the sales of seasonal drinks. Later, this pumpkin flavor latte boom has continued until now. In addition, as the facade of seasonal products, pumpkin flavor latte is the only Starbucks drink with “exclusive SNS account”. At present, the number of fans on Twitter has exceeded 110000.
Pumpkin latte twitter account. Source: business of business
Using pumpkin flavor, Starbucks not only created a phenomenal product, but also created the national taste of autumn drinks in the American beverage industry. Since 2003, Starbucks has made more than $1 billion in pumpkin latte sales alone. According to Nielsen and Forbes, the pumpkin latte market continues to grow.
So, what led to this upsurge? How does Starbucks make pumpkin flavor a special symbol of autumn? Just as pumpkin is to the United States and cherry blossom is to Japan, how can domestic food brands create a limited flavor that truly represents Chinese characteristics?
From the 20 “autumn flavors” tests,
Find a special PSL pumpkin latte flavor
Looking back on the mental process of a popular product, you can always spy on its success factors. As the seasonal marketing model has repeatedly achieved good results in the market, more and more enterprises are keen on seasonal Limited marketing and have launched products with full seasonal sense to stimulate consumption.
Starbucks, as a beverage giant, has also taken the responsibility and launched a variety of seasonal drinks to stimulate consumers’ freshness and enrich their choice needs. Among them, xingbingle in summer, mocha coffee and egg wine latte in winter have achieved good results. The drinks are perfectly matched with the seasons, making seasonal drinks a popular trend. However, compared with the brilliant achievements in winter and summer, autumn products have been in an awkward situation of being out of stock.
Photo source: microblog Japan
To this end, Starbucks set up a flag – be sure to make every effort to create popular products with a full sense of autumn.
Starbucks Seattle “liquid laboratory” carried out user research on 20 potential autumn flavors, and Peter dukes, product manager of Italian drinks, led the research and development of autumn products.
At first, the results of the survey showed that due to the cooler weather, consumers’ demand for calories and sweetness increased, and caramel and chocolate were more popular. However, Peter Dukes has a unique view. He found that pumpkin is a representative food in autumn, but its peripheral products are very scarce. Therefore, he turned his attention to the classic dessert of Thanksgiving in autumn – pumpkin pie, integrating pumpkin flavor with coffee drinks. After three months of repeated experiments and adjustments, dukes and his team finally determined the final taste and formula of pumpkin flavor latte, and this formula has been used until 2015 for 11 years.
The blessing of an excellent product with a good name seems to add wings to the tiger, which has an impact of one plus one greater than two. At first, in order to match the symbol of the joy of autumn harvest, dukes considered naming this product fall harvest latte. However, although the name is in line with the design of autumn, it can not reflect the taste of the product. On the contrary, it is easy to associate with the smell of haystack, thus misleading consumers.
Then, after repeated consideration by Dukes team, pumpkin flavor latte came into being. This name can not only directly reflect the flavor of the product, but also give the product a warm and comfortable feeling of golden autumn. Today, pumpkin flavored latte has already become the absolute C in the American beverage market. Fans affectionately call it “PSL” and gradually open up its unique food culture in the dual world of reality and the Internet.
Peter dukes, developer of pumpkin flavor latte. Source: business of business
Why do people love PSL?
It turns out that the “pumpkin flavor effect” is causing trouble
The popularity of pumpkin flavor latte is not accidental, but the result of Starbucks’ accurate grasp of American consumers’ living habits and customs and culture, and the emotional effects and psychological reactions produced by the accurate application of pumpkin flavor.
In the United States, the pumpkin lanterns used to decorate Thanksgiving and Halloween and the essential pumpkin pie on the table are common good memories and a symbol of family happiness. For consumers, pumpkin flavor has a natural charm. Even in hot summer, it will remind you of the scene of crisp autumn and golden everywhere. In addition, many consumers said that the southerly flavor was “full of nostalgia”, reminiscent of “home flavor” and “childhood memories”.
Scientists have also conducted objective and rational scientific research on the emotional effects of pumpkin flavor. Dr. John McGann, a sensory neuroscientist in the Department of psychology at Rutgers University, explained that the pumpkin flavor effect is closely related to our sense of smell. In fact, most of the taste perceived by the public is smell – about 70% of our perception of taste is post nasal smell, and only 25% is its real taste. Our brain can connect smell with classic memory areas in the brain.
As we all know, PSL drinks contain spices such as cinnamon, clove and nutmeg, which are easy to come into contact with during the holidays, especially in western culture. Therefore, when we drink PSL, the brain will automatically associate the smell of pumpkin with images such as Thanksgiving and autumn harvest, evoke a deep natural emotion and give people a feeling of joy and happiness.
Based on this theoretical basis, food chemists have won the olfactory award with PSL, which also explains why PSL is not only a fashion, but also a seasonal food that lasts as long as chocolate.
Therefore, the interesting thing about pumpkin flavor is that consumers are obsessed with its taste and the wonderful feeling it brings us on the emotional level.
Publicity map of pumpkin flavor latte. Source: business of business
Hunger marketing plus buff,
Starbucks not only promotes products,
It is the fleeting essence of autumn
In addition to the pumpkin flavor latte, which has a deep feeling in the hearts of the American people, the limited seasonal marketing means during the period is also one of the reasons for the rapid popularity of the products; But different from the general seasonal taste, the rarity of pumpkin flavor also makes the popularity of this taste soar in autumn.
As for pumpkin flavor, Harry Balzer, an expert of NPD group, a consumer market research company, once analyzed: “one possible reason why pumpkin flavor is popular is that it captures human ambivalence: we like new things, but we also want something we know we will like.”
Balzer said that pumpkin pie is the second largest pie consumed in the United States (the first is apple pie), which is a very surprising result, because in fact, people only eat it “one day” every year. It gives us the illusion that we are trying a new flavor.
Therefore, the sales model in a specific period can easily accumulate consumers’ purchase desire for up to one year, and make the product remain mysterious for a long time. Once the product is sold, consumers who have been “hungry” for a long time can’t wait, can’t help eating a full meal, and can’t wait to make up for a year’s demand every quarter. According to the consumer survey in previous years, there are not a few people who drink 10-14 cups of pumpkin latte a week.
In addition to seasonal marketing, the popularity of pumpkin latte is also inseparable from the fermentation of online social networking. With the rise of Twitter and instagram, social media has become a catalyst for the spread of pumpkin latte, which has become a cultural infatuation.
We can see that more and more young Americans begin to share information about pumpkin lattes online, “#psl” has long become a hot topic. Through the Internet, consumers in many countries also began to understand pumpkin flavored latte and have a strong interest in it, so that its upsurge slowly spread from the United States to the world.
Pumpkin latte related topics on twitter. Source: Twitter
Up to now, Starbucks pumpkin latte products have been sold in Starbucks stores in more than 50 countries around the world, and officially appeared in front of mainland consumers in September 2019.
It can be said that this is the result of Starbucks’ genius marketing: it hypes the limited time nature of drinks, but it hypes not only a product, but the fleeting essence of a season.
Take advantage of PSL Dongfeng cross-border extension products,
How does pumpkin flavor become a booming money making tool?
With the popularity of pumpkin flavored lattes, Starbucks pursued the victory and continued to develop pumpkin flavored products in an attempt to open up a broader autumn market. However, in terms of the whole “pumpkin flavor” market, Starbucks only accounts for about US $110 million in PSL market. The other popular categories include grain, bread (and mixed bread), Greek yogurt and ice cream.
Starbucks has previously launched a limited series of pumpkin cakes in autumn. The sugar coated pumpkin Sikang tastes sweet and layered; The Pumpkin Cream Cheese muffin with moist taste and sweet cream cheese filling, combined with salty pumpkin seeds, achieve the perfect balance of salty and sweet taste; Pumpkin bread is the perfect combination of pumpkin seeds and pumpkin. It is sweet and soft as a whole, with delicate taste, rich pumpkin flavor and endless aftertaste.
Starbucks autumn pumpkin cake. Source: Starbucks official website
This successful case of Starbucks makes more and more food enterprises find their advantages and launch pumpkin flavor related products one after another. Oreos, Milano cookies, M & M chocolate beans, yogurt, marshmallow, chewing gum, oatmeal and eggo waffles have all launched pumpkin flavor products.
Source: Teen Vogue
However, after pumpkin flavored latte became a popular product of Starbucks and brought huge benefits to Starbucks, it has also been controversial due to health and safety issues.
In 2015, the famous food blogger Vani Hari published an article exposing the fact that there was no pumpkin in the formula of pumpkin flavor latte, and claimed that the product was high in sugar and suspected of adding a variety of carcinogenic ingredients, which seriously endangered the health of consumers. In addition, Dr. TAZ Bhatia, the author of super woman Rx, a famous health expert and comprehensive medical doctor, said that the sugar content of a cup of pumpkin flavor latte is as high as 50g, while the American Heart Association recommends that men should not exceed 37G and women should not exceed 25g every day. This cup of pumpkin flavored latte contains twice as much sugar as women should eat in a day, and excessive intake of sugar in the diet will lead to the increase of blood glucose, blood lipid and blood pressure.
Starbucks pumpkin latte has health problems. Source: Food babe
Therefore, some PSL fans panicked and began to jointly boycott Starbucks from selling this product. In order to dispel consumers’ doubts, Starbucks finally changed the PSL formula in 2015, eliminated artificial pigments and added pumpkin mud to the formula to appease consumers.
Up to now, in addition to the food field, pumpkin flavor has also begun to get involved in sanitary products such as toothpaste, body milk and pet food such as dog food and cat food. According to statistics, from 2011 to 2015, the sales of pumpkin flavor food, personal and household products increased by nearly 80%. Pumpkin flavor seems to form its own flavor Empire and become a flavor worth billions.
Source: even angels fall
From pumpkin to cherry blossom:
Full of national soul,
It is the essence of Chinese brand building limited products
Starbucks made use of the humanistic feelings of American society and the seasonal characteristics of pumpkin to create a phenomenal pumpkin flavor product, and successfully promoted it to form a new American food culture and penetrate into the national daily life. Especially in the past two years, people have experienced various unfortunate events such as epidemic and natural disasters. People are more willing to accept familiar things to comfort their hearts. As they joked: “you can’t change the turbulent situation, but you can still expect cafes to sweeten your heart with pumpkin flavor coffee.”
Japan also has such a situation. With the addition of bushido spirit and the awakening consciousness of local people to local culture, they officially upgraded cherry blossoms from “material sorrow” to a “national spirit”, so cherry blossoms have become a spiritual symbol of them, and cherry blossom flavor has become a Limited representative of spring, so that the products have great commercial value, And affect the surrounding countries and regions.
It can be seen that when a product can perfectly fit with the local culture and customs and can definitely represent the culture and spirit of a country or a region, it will certainly be able to recall the good memories of consumers or ignite their patriotism, especially when the post-90s who love the national trend are the main force of consumption. In this way, I believe that the brand will also achieve good results in the market.
In short, only by truly moving consumers can we firmly sit on the throne of C!
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