The great pumpkin

steamed pumpkin, dana cree
Dana Cree's steamed pumpkin cake.

Steamed pumpkin cake is a signature dessert for Chicago pastry chef Dana Cree, who grew up in a family of five, with two younger sisters, a father who worked construction, and a mother who taught art to middle school children with special needs. Her first memories of cooking consisted of standing on a stool, helping her grandmother peel apples for apple sauce. “My grandmother was a home economics teacher, and weekends at her house were filled with little cooking and sewing lessons.”

Cree admits to being obsessed with desserts as a child. “They were so significant, not just because they were tasty, but the entire practice of getting a treat, and the way that brought a pocket of pure joy to a day. I started making them early on with my grandmother, and loved watching the joy they brought to my family.”

For bakers and pastry chefs, pumpkin is one of those classic flavors that bring back childhood memories for customers young and old. And each fall, pumpkin makes a big statement on menus across the country.

According to Nielsen data, the pumpkin flavor trend continues to grow and has become an integral part of our fall diets. Last year, 37 percent of US consumers purchased a pumpkin-flavored product. And this means big dollars: Pumpkin products accounted for $361 million in sales in the last year alone, having grown 79% since 2011.

Gigi's Cupcakes features a variety of new fall flavors.

Still, some wonder if pumpkin has peaked. It may be a question on many product developers’ minds. According to Dr. Anil Kaul, the chief executive officer and co-founder of Absolutdata, pumpkin still has a ways to go. His market intelligence firm tracks the rise and fall of popular flavors to help companies determine whether to participate in a particular trend. Of note, marshmallow, tabasco and passion fruit are on his list of flavors that recently have fallen out of favor.

But each year, pumpkin crops up in more and more limited-edition packaged foods and menu items. New launches this season include belVita pumpkin spice breakfast biscuits from Mondelez International, pumpkin-flavored Twinkies from Hostess Brands, and a pumpkin spice variety of Kellogg’s Frosted Mini Wheats cereal. “I do think this flavor in particular has a little bit of time left,” says Kaul, who explains the flavor’s limited availability extends its lifespan.

“If a flavor is available year-round, people get tired of it (faster),” he adds. “I think the positive thing about pumpkin spice is that this is a flavor that is associated with fall and every year people look forward to it. In a way it becomes a ritual for a lot of people.”

Rooted in Tradition

Pumpkin has grown by 182 percent on menus over the past decade. With more than 75 years of heritage and consumer trust, Libby’s Pumpkin provides the highest quality pumpkin available. The consistent performance of 100 percent pure, solid-packed pumpkin means less waste and reduced time and labor in busy operations.

Complete with a clean label, Libby’s Pumpkin contains no added sugars, flavorings or preservatives. This versatile ingredient is also sodium free, gluten-free and low in calories and fat, making it perfect for deli and bakery applications. For more information or recipe ideas, visit NestleProfessional.com.


Libby's Pumpkin features no added sugars or preservatives.

Pumpkin pie filling still dominates the US pumpkin market, with $135 million of sales in the last year. However, several other products also contribute to the significant sales. While pumpkin bread, pies and baked goods are flying off shelves, pumpkin flavor is also making its way into products that are captivating consumer’s curiosity.

Dunkin’ Donuts is offering a flavorful fusion of pumpkin cheesecake and donuts with its new Pumpkin Cheesecake Square. It’s filled with pumpkin cheesecake filling and topped with orange icing, crumbled graham crackers and a white icing drizzle.

Auntie Anne's kicked off the fall season by announcing the introduction of a new autumn flavor to its pretzel line-up: Pumpkin Spice Nuggets. A special blend of spices top freshly baked pretzel nuggets to create this limited-time offering. The new Pumpkin Spice Pretzel Nuggets pair perfectly with Auntie Anne's cream cheese or sweet glaze dips.

"Pumpkin is a beloved fall flavor and we're excited to offer our guests a unique and fresh take on everyone's favorite autumn treat," says Heather Neary, vice president of global marketing for Auntie Anne's. "The combination of a freshly baked Auntie Anne's pretzel and pumpkin creates a delicious and portable snack that can be enjoyed while shopping or traveling."

The Pumpkin Spice topping can also be enjoyed on Auntie Anne's Original Pretzel. The new fall product won't be the only addition to the menu this fall. Select Auntie Anne's stores will introduce a Pumpkin Smoothie to continue the fall fun.

The Spirit of Giving

Each year, The Cheesecake Factory prepares and serves holiday meals to more than 6,000 low-income individuals and families who are treated to a full-service, sit-down meal that includes freshly roasted turkey with all the trimmings – including The Cheesecake Factory’s famous seasonal Pumpkin Cheesecake. The annual Thanksgiving Day Feast is one of several commitments that The Cheesecake Factory has made to help support hunger-relief in America.


The Pumpkin Pecan Cheesecake at The Cheesecake Factory.

“Our annual Thanksgiving Day Feast at Salvation Army locations is one of our favorite holiday traditions at The Cheesecake Factory,” says David Overton, founder and CEO of The Cheesecake Factory. “We value giving back to our communities around the country and are thankful for our staff members who volunteer their time on Thanksgiving to help us provide a special meal to the less fortunate.”