You're Getting Ripped Off By Pumpkin Spice

Your favorite fall flavor adds more than a little seasonal spice—it adds a bigger price tag.

At this point pumpkin spice has become synonymous with the fall season, so it's no surprise that the flavor is always in high demand this time of year. But MagnifyMoney, a personal finance site owned by Lending Tree, reports that in 2022, pumpkin spice products are marked up by an average of 14.1%.

The numbers become even more stark when you look at specific promotional products. For example, per MagnifyMoney, Trader Joe's charges 161.1% more for its Pumpkin Spiced Teeny Tiny Pretzels than for its Honey Wheat Pretzel Sticks. The pretzels are essentially the same product, but one is dusted with that beloved mix of cinnamon and spice. And of course, we continue to buy these things at inflated prices, as food brands know we will.

Why pumpkin spice is more expensive 

Aside from the obvious heightened demand of pumpkin spice flavors each autumn, there are other reasons these items are ripping us off. Because it's a seasonal flavor profile, it only comes around once a year, and that (manufactured) scarcity makes us consider it more of a luxury than it is. When we think of it as a little treat we're affording ourselves, we're willing to spend extra.

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Per MagnifyMoney's data, Starbucks charges 18.3% extra for a Pumpkin Spice Latte compared to a regular latte. Although there is no shortage on pumpkin spice availability, inflation has indirectly affected pumpkin spice items in that retailers are charging more for them to make up for losses in other categories, reports CBS News. However, everyone has their limits in terms of how much more they're willing to spend, and that's where FOMO comes in.

"The pandemic trained people to understand that things do run out," said Kelly Goldsmith, a professor of marketing at Vanderbilt University to CBS News. "We've been conditioned to respond, and scarcity marketing tactics are even more effective than they were pre-pandemic."

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Once again, though there is no shortage on pumpkin spice, we have seen enough news of shortages on other popular items in the past like butter, beer, and chicken that we're now always bracing for the possibility that we won't find the items we want. Pumpkin spice only comes around once a year, so why not splurge on a latte to give you those seasonal vibes while you can? That's the logic that makes us okay with spending 14% more on something that is, when you think about it, not all that special, and nothing that you can't make at home all year long.

The best deals on pumpkin spice products

It's worth noting that not all pumpkin spice items are a ripoff. MagnifyMoney points out that Pepperidge Farm's pumpkin spice Milano cookies (available at Target) decreased in price from their normal counterparts by 14.3%. Pumpkin spice oatmeal and breakfast cereals are also often cheaper than their regular counterparts, a promotional offer meant to attract customers quickly and thoroughly.

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Just remember, whether you get that #PSL or not, the leaves will continue to change color, the pumpkins will continue to ripen, and fall will still be fall. A regular latte and some basic pretzel sticks won't stop the fall vibes from soaking into your flannel.

 

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