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Dunkin’ takes a thumpin’ from the Pumpkin (Spice Latte)

Al Urbanski
The power of the PSL: hot sales in a steamy August

Media outlets that mocked Starbucks’ decision to release its fall-fave Pumpkin Spice Latte on Aug. 24--when Seattle temperatures hit the mid-70s--might want to consider publishing retractions. 

According to data processed by foot traffic analytics provider, chain-wide Starbucks visits were 9% higher than they were in August 2022, while Dunkin’s slid by half a percent. The PSL effect continued to roll in September with a near 8% traffic lift at Starbucks compared to a 2.5% falloff at Dunkin’.

Dunkin’s answer to the PSL--the Pumpkin Spice Signature Latte—is cheaper than the original ($4.55 versus $6.75 in NYC) and made with lesser ingredients. According to Tasting Table, the pumpkin flavoring in Dunkin’s version contains sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and other additives and preservatives. In Starbucks’ original recipe, the flavoring is made with made with sugar, condensed skim milk, pumpkin puree, and fruit and vegetable juices for color.

“Starbucks tends to attract patrons from higher income areas compared with Dunkin’, so Starbucks customers may be more inclined to indulge in the affordable luxury of a latte on the go,” observed analyst Bracha Arnold. 

Pumpkins aside, the biggest traffic amalgamator in the coffee business right now is Dutch Bros., whose average 950-sq. ft., takeout-only shops have increased from 603 at the end of 2022’s second quarter to 754 in Q2 2023.

Dutch Bros. rang up monthly visit increases of 37%, 47%, and 35% in May, June and July, respectively. And its expansion is truly market-worthy in that average visits continued to grow by double-digits across its entire portfolio during the period.

Dutch Bros.’ traffic pace did slip to an increase of just 15% during the prime PSL month of September, though the falloff was not likely due to a lack of novelty beverages. That’s been the oncoming brand’s stock-in-trade in building a young and loyal customer base. 

Its menu includes the Cocomo blended coconut mocha, the strawberry-blackberry-raspberry-lime Aftershock energy drink and, come fall, hot and cold versions of its Caramel Pumpkin Brulee.

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