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Restaurants Say: Good-Bye Pumpkin, Hello Gingerbread

Friday, 19 Oct 2012 | 1:22 PM ET
Source: Burger King

It looks like Christmas Creep has swallowed another industry.

After a bumper crop of pumpkin-flavored products this fall, it looks like it's time to bring out the gingerbread and mint at restaurant chains even though trick-or-treaters have yet to ring the doorbell.

Burger King announced plans to offer Gingerbread Cookie Sundaes and Gingerbread Cookie Shakes at its restaurants. At McDonald's, an Egg Nog Shake and Holiday Mint McFlurry are already on the menu. Jack in the Box also unveiled the return of its egg-nog and pumpkin-pie-flavored shakes in a press release that began: "The holidays are here! The holidays are here! Well ... almost."

Maybe the early arrival of gingerbread, mint, and egg nog is a welcome change after all the unusual applications we've seen for pumpkin lately. There were pumpkin brews and pumpkin vodka, not to mention Planters Pumpkin Spice Almonds and Pumpkin Spice Philadelphia Cream Cheese from Kraft. Kellogg's Eggo waffles and its Pop-Tarts both received the pumpkin treatment, as did Pringles' potato chips.

Limited-time offerings are a great way to coax consumers in the door, but it can be a vicious cycle. This year the pumpkins arrived early, popping up at stores during the last weeks of the summer. By now it could be that consumers have grown a little sick of pumpkin, so hello gingerbread!

The new flavor might be just the thing the restaurants need right now to bring out consumers, or it may not be enough. McDonald's disappointing earnings showed that demand was not only weak in Europe, which was expected due to the debt crisis that is rocking the region, but in the U.S., as well. (Read More: McDonald's Shares Slide After Earnings Leave Bad Taste.)

Given Friday's selloff of rivals Burger King, Wendy's, Yum Brands, Sonic and Jack it looks as though investors fear more of the same from others in the group.

—By Christina Cheddar Berk, CNBC.com News Editor; Follow Her on Twiiter @ccheddarberk

Questions? Comments? Email us at consumernation@cnbc.com.

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