- Starbucks and Dunkin’ are both launching new apple-flavored items this fall.
- Pumpkin is still the reigning king of fall, and pumpkin spice has spread everywhere.
- Experts say apple is a way for chains to keep fall menus fresh while keeping the classics.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Pumpkin spice is still the flavor of fall, but apple is an up-and-coming competitor on seasonal menus this year.
Dunkin’ announced a few new apple items, including an apple cranberry refresher and an apple cranberry coconut refresher, and the apple cider doughnut will be back this year, too. Starbucks is also embracing apple this year with the new apple crisp macchiato.
Industry experts told Insider that the two major coffee chains turned to apple flavors at the same time because pumpkin is everywhere, from Kraft mac and cheese to deodorant and Twinkies, a victim of its own success.
“Many feel that pumpkin spice ‘jumped the shark’ so to speak because there is a saturation of pumpkin spice everything,” Kim McLynn at The NPD Group told Insider.
Starbucks introduced the new drink as a natural complement to pumpkin.
“Building on the popularity of pumpkin flavor, Starbucks inspiration for an apple beverage started with the idea of the fall harvest. The new Apple Crisp Macchiato offers customers comfort to the core with layered flavors of apple and brown sugar melding like the filling of a gooey apple pie in harmony with espresso, steamed milk, and a caramelized-spiced apple drizzle for a nostalgic autumn pick-me-up,” Starbucks described the new drink in a statement.
Pumpkin remains highly popular, Mark Kalinowski of Kalinowski Equity Research told Insider. Chains can “introduce it early because it’s so popular,” he said. Dunkin’ and Starbucks each launched their fall menus at their earliest ever dates this year, August 19 and 24, respectively. Pumpkin is “enthusiastically anticipated” each year, he said.
The pumpkin spice latte, or PSL, which kicked of the trend at Starbucks in 2003, is returning for its 18th year. Starbucks says it is one of the chain’s most popular seasonal drinks of all time, with more than 500 million sold. In 2020, the Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew outsold the PSL, with 90 million drinks sold last year as cold drinks continue to dominate.
While apple is new to fall coffee menus, Starbucks typically pairs the PSL with something else, like the salted caramel mocha and maple pecan latte. “They don’t want to do the exact same thing every single year,” he said.
Apple is heavily associated with fall, and Starbucks is also emphasizing a nostalgic angle.
“Fall at Starbucks brings customers back to the nostalgic flavors of the season and our team used the inspiration to create a new flavor that celebrates of comfort and familiarity,” Starbucks research and development senior manager Raegen Powell said in a statement.
Before landing on the macchiato, Starbucks tested out other apple-flavored products, including apple maple syrup, apple cider doughnuts, and other pies and cakes.
Workers told Insider that Starbucks stores were stocking up on pumpkin sauce and apple cinnamon syrup ahead of the launch for the new fall menu, anticipating the popularity of the drinks and hopefully avoiding shortages.
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