Autumn is upon us, and that can only mean one thing: pumpkin fever.
You’ve got your Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks (SBUX) and your pumpkin beer. Now prepare your taste buds for pumpkin spice M&Ms, which are selling exclusively at Target for $2.99 a package. The “exclusive” M&Ms are part of Target’s Halloween treats lineup, which also includes Bloody Bones Hard Candy and Archer Farms Pumpkin Spiced Bagged Coffee.
The new flavor is another in a long string of attempts by food companies to push the flavor envelope in a bid to appeal to new consumers – e.g., watermelon Oreos. M&Ms, a product of the privately held Mars company, have introduced a host of non-traditional flavors, including dark chocolate mint, peanut butter, raspberry and candy corn. Possibly the most questionable, though, was this spring's white chocolate carrot cake flavor.
Starbucks helped popularize the pumpkin spice phenomenon a decade ago with its Pumpkin Spice Latte, which has garnered a somewhat surprisingly devoted fan base. Last week the coffee shop chain marked the 10th anniversary of the drink, saying in a press release that fans have established it “as the company’s most popular seasonal beverage of all time, having purchased more than 200 million beverages since it was first introduced in 2003.” (Last year high demand for the pumpkin spice latte led to a shortage. The horror!)
The fruit (yes, pumpkin is a fruit) most closely associated with the Halloween and Thanksgiving season has crept into scores of food products as companies try to capitalize on the pumpkin craze. Many are limited-time-only offers tied to fall, including: Kahlua Pumpkin Spice, Pumpkin Pie Spice Pringles, Pumpkin Pie Pop Tarts, Rossi Pasta Pumpkin Spice Fettuccini, Hiram Walker Pumpkin Spice liqueur, Pinnacle pumpkin pie flavored vodka, Silk pumpkin spice soymilk, Krispy Kreme pumpkin spice donuts, pumpkin spice Hershey’s Kisses, and of course, pumpkin-flavored dog treats at Trader Joe’s. And because who doesn't want to smell like they just rolled around in a pumpkin patch, there’s also Homemade Pumpkin Pie shampoo, shower gel and bubble bath from skin care company Philosophy.
So are the new specialty M&Ms delicious or nausea-inducing?
Food blogger JunkFoodGuy.com tried them out and found the pumpkin spice candies were lacking in…. pumpkin.
"They didn't taste "pumpkin-y" enough,” Eric Huang, author of the blog, wrote. Huang said he was excited to try the candies but was “let down when all I tasted was a bit of cinnamon-ish spice in the candy shell, and maybe a faint pumpkin spice in the chocolate… My taste buds had to go searching for the pumpkin spice flavor, which they shouldn't have to do when the product is labeled a certain way.” He said he noticed more of a pumpkin flavor in the aftertaste.