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The economics behind the pumpkin spice trend


We're now well into fall, a.k.a. pumpkin spice season.

BRUCE CLARK: There's pumpkin spice beer. There's pumpkin spice Oreos. There's pumpkin spice cream cheese, pumpkin spice spam, pumpkin ramen noodles.

MARTÍNEZ: We called an expert to answer our hard-hitting questions about pumpkin and spice.

CLARK: My name is Bruce Clark. I'm an associate professor of marketing at Northeastern University.


Professor Clark says this flavor trend has lasted almost 20 years, ever since the great pumpkin spice latte craze of 2003. Clark has theories about its staying power.

CLARK: It's got a very strong association. People go pumpkin picking. People put out their pumpkins for Halloween, and it is kind of a nice, nostalgic thing.

INSKEEP: And the aroma triggers those memories.

CLARK: You smell that pumpkin spice, and you almost smell fall. It's like smelling food from home. It's like smelling the perfume of somebody that you love. It evokes all these emotions and sensations that simply looking at something doesn't do.

MARTÍNEZ: Clark has gone from a scholar of pumpkin spice to a fan.

CLARK: Allow yourself to have an affordable luxury. Do something nice for yourself. If it's not pumpkin spice latte, do something nice for yourself in another way. It's OK to have an affordable luxury once in a while, especially with the change of the season.

INSKEEP: When I think affordable luxury, I do think pumpkin spice spam. But here's my question. When do farmers finally grow a pumpkin spice...


INSKEEP: ...Pumpkin? Come on, a pumpkin spice pumpkin would be great. It's just already spiced.

MARTÍNEZ: You got to squash that, Steve.

INSKEEP: There - oh, he's here all week. He's here all week. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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