These days the yellowing of leaves is not the first indicator fall is coming, it's the return of pumpkin flavor promotions at restaurants and grocery stores.
Fueled by the success of Starbucks' popular Pumpkin Spice Latte, the seasonal pumpkin-flavored trend is bigger than ever. Designed to get customers in the door to buy before the promotion (and autumn) ends, the strategy appears to be working.
Here are five facts about the pumpkin craze that even PSL fanatics might not know:
During last fall and winter, the average check for PSL purchasers rang in at $7.81 versus $6.67 for non-buyers, according to data from The NPD Group. No wonder restaurants are hopping on the seasonal drink trend. Food add-ons drove the higher ticket.
Sales of pumpkin-flavored items continue to soar, rising 11.6 percent to $361 million for the year ended July 25, according to Nielsen. Yogurt, baby food and salty snacks were just three categories that saw substantial growth last year.
Surprisingly, fresh pumpkins at the retail level aren't seeing the same boost. In fact, fresh pumpkin sales dropped in 2011, 2013 and 2014. Last year, volume fell 5.2 percent, but sales rose due to a higher average price of the fruit.
"The rise of the whole pumpkin spice and pumpkin lattes and pumpkin flavors really hasn't done much for pumpkins at retail," said Sarah Schmansky, Nielsen Perishables Group's Director Retail Program, in a phone interview.
Just 8 percent of pumpkin spice latte customers buy the drink three or more times during the offer time, according to NPD data. It's considerably more common for PSL lovers to buy the indulgence drink just one time. About 72 percent of customers do this, while about a fifth buy it twice a season.
Before Starbucks' PSL became its most popular seasonal item ever, it was just an idea cooking at the coffee chain's "Liquid Lab," a research and development space at its headquarters, in 2003.
One of the original ideas for the drink was the "Fall Harvest Latte" before Starbucks ultimately decided on the official Pumpkin Spice Latte moniker.
Last year, about 37 percent of consumers purchased a pumpkin-flavored item. So even if pumpkin items are everywhere (even dog food!), not everyone is biting.