Pumpkin-mania returns to store shelves

Pumpkin-flavored treats are popping up everywhere before Halloween

Last updated: October 14, 2014 10:30 AM

Photo: CU

If you're familiar with the classic Peanuts movie, It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, you know that, sadly, Linus never gets to meet the Great Pumpkin. Unlike Linus, however, if you're a fan of pumpkin-flavored food and drink, you're in luck: The Great Pumpkin has made its annual return to supermarkets, coffeehouses, restaurants, and elsewhere.

Americans seem to have an insatiable appetite for things pumpkin. If you're among them, your quest for pumpkin-flavored products is helping corporate bottom lines. Indeed, according to Nielsen's "From the Bushel to the Bottle" report, "13 fresh pumpkin brands came to market in 2013," and that although "the pumpkin wave has ebbed a bit since 2012, when dollar sales spiked 28 percent from 2011, the orange gourd still packs a powerful punch on retailer shelves."  

Trader Joe's—which ranked second in our supermarket survey—is a particularly good place to satisfy pumpkin cravings. The retailer's pumpkin lineup includes bread, coffee, cream cheese, granola, ravioli, tea, and even pumpkin-flavored dog treats.

The offerings extend into adult beverages. More pumpkin-flavored seasonal beers have popped up, perhaps an inevitability given pumpkin-mania  or maybe just a result of the American beer palate growing ever more varried and sophisticated. And of course there's all that pumpkin-and-spice coffee, available not only at such chains as 7-Eleven, Dunkin’ Donuts, Panera Bread, and Starbucks but also for brewing at home.

We can't speak to the health aspects of the myriad pumpkin-flavored products on the market, but pumpkin itself—a squash that comes in dozens of varieties—offers some dietary benefits. It's a good source of vitamin C, potassium, and fiber, as well as a powerhouse of beta-carotene (which the body converts into vitamin A). Pumpkin seeds are a good source of protein, iron, omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, and vitamin E. The seeds are high in calories, so limit yourself to a quarter cup per day. All that makes it a shame that so many good pumpkins are wasted at the annual Punkin Chunkin world championship.

One tip: If you're passionate about pumpkin, stock up on some of your favorite goodies. Many are available for limited duration, and you don't want to be stuck waiting with no seasonally inspired options until countless peppermint/candy-cane concoctions arrive in advance of Christmas.

Maggie Shader

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