"Is Pumpkin Spice Dead?" The Shopping Trip (Part 2)

You can catch up on what's happening here and read about the first part of the shopping trip here. Otherwise, the quickest summary possible:

I am on a hunt to buy everything in this grocery store that is pumpkin spice flavored. To accomplish this mission, I've set up three ground rules:

  1. Any item labeled "Pumpkin Spice" must be purchased, no matter what it is.
  2. Anything that looks like it's trying to be pumpkin spice without actually calling itself pumpkin spice - "pumpkin flavored," "pumpkin and cinnamon," etc. - must also be purchased.
  3. Anything that seems just to be pumpkin product, minding its own business, ignoring current trends, can be ignored. Each of these products will be carefully considered on a case-by-case basis.

We now join the hunt in progress...

I turn the cart up an aisle dedicated to pasta and rice. I'm close to halfway through the store, and I've only placed only 8 items in my cart so far (plus a few items I was out of, like milk and butter). My theory seems be holding up well.

11.  Mom's Smokey Pumpkin and Chipotle Pasta Sauce

Well, this one seems like yet another Category Three. I'm not convinced that this product hasn't existed for decades and I'm only coming across it now. Plus, "chipotle" does not fall into the cinnamon/nutmeg/ginger realm of spices. It seems safe to leave on the shelf.

Not to mention, I'm decidedly not in favor of the odd order the text is laid out in, nor "Mom," who, for someone who is "stirring up goodness," seems to be holding that ladle at me in a bit of an aggressive fashion.

On the other hand, this may be the pasta sauces' tagalong entry into the world of pumpkin spice. I certainly can't prove that it isn't. Into the cart it goes.

12. Libby's 100% Pure Pumpkin

I load a couple of these into my cart before the obvious occurs to me: pumpkin spice flavor is just a knockoff of the pumpkin spice latte, which is just trying to make a pumpkin pie latte. I'm loading the original pumpkin spice into my cart on a journey to determine the necessity of its imitators.

Pumpkin pie needs no defending. I put the cans back.

Also, I don't know how to make a pumpkin pie, and it seems like it might be a lot of work.

13. Kellogg's Nutri Grain Pumpkin Spice Breakfast Bars

Boy, you can see the desperation clawing right off the box, here. They added nine shades of orange to the box so that you wouldn't skip by it if you walked by looking for pumpkin-based food products. The scattered pumpkins and falling leaves behind the product are on a scale that breakfast bar would have to be four feet long to match.

I don't care if this is "soft baked," my mouth is dry just looking at this product. You can spot the tastelessness from here.

I'm not going to enjoy this one, but it's coming with me.

14. Krusteaz Pumpkin Spice Coffeehouse Style Quick Bread Mix

This is the product where I realized that I might be in trouble. The sort of people into pumpkin spice has a very high crossover with people who love baking, and is almost a concentric circle with "people who love baking and also love showing people how much they love baking." I might get stuck on this aisle for a little bit.

I, however, am not one of those people who loves baking, and I'm staring at this box with real animosity. I have somehow given myself a lot of homework, and I'm at least 90% sure I don't have any sort of pan to bake this in. I hope this can be prepared in a brownie tin.

The tag "now with more real pumpkin!" unnerves me, since it means that this product has already existed in previous autumns, people responded negatively, and now there is a new version out for which I am now a test dummy.

Also, I don't really know what "coffeehouse style" means, except probably "overpriced."  

15. Betty Crocker Pumpkin Spice Cookie Mix

More baking. The cookies look inedible, and the fact that one is lathered in frosting and cinnamon (sold separately, I'm sure) to disguise the taste is bad, bad sign.

Maybe I can bring these into work. Someone'll eat 'em.

16. H-E-B Pumpkin Spice Baking Mix

So, my options here seem to be either make more pumpkin bread - which is not an appetizing option, as the makers of this product have also realized. A few dry looking squares of pumpkin bread are hidden off to the side in the background, cropped out by the sides of the box. The main items here are the pancakes.

First of all, I don't actually know how to make pancakes. I mean, I know in theory, but I've never successfully attempted it. I assume it'll take a few tries before I'm tossing out light and fluffy flapjacks for the whole fam to enjoy. And these pumpkin spice pancakes look like they're coming in at a pretty high degree of difficulty. Look how thick they are!

I toss the box in the cart, but I'm pretty sure in a week or two you'll be reading a post with a picture of a plate full of dark orange blobs and burn marks, doused heavily in maple syrup.

The cat food aisle is packed with specialty flavors, so I check and see if any of them have a pumpkin spice option. I'm sure my cat can would love the pleasure of joining me on this culinary journey.

It turns out that pumpkin spice cat food is a bridge too far, even though I'm sure the drop off in group size between "people who love pumpkin spice products" and "people who love pumpkin spice products and also have a cat" is very small.

I'm relieved, though, because this means I don't have to clean up any sort of pumpkin spice cat vomit anytime soon.

17. Barton Creek Crossing Pumpkin Butter

First off, no one needs 16 fluid ounces of this product. How much pumpkin butter are you expecting to go through? What are your daily pumpkin butter needs?

The packaging on this product is alarming. The cutesy handle does nothing to convince me that this is a product worth owning, and the fact that it has "made with rain water" written in COMIC SANS across the top of the lid is a flashing warning sign screaming "STAY AWAY." I'll bet you any money the makers of this product are certain that all rainwater is safe and healthy, and have not factored in the natural acidity of rainwater, nor the threat of bacteria.

This is a product I'm going to end up eating once, and then it's going to sit in my fridge for months, taunting me to have another go. Which I almost certainly won't.

18. Breckenridge Brewery Nitro Series Pumpkin Spice Coffee Stout

Oh. Yay. A pumpkin spice beer that's "nitrogen charged." Because nothing says "let's grab this night by the horns" like pre-gaming with a couple of pumpkin spice latte caffeine beers. WHO IS THIS FOR?

And it looks like I can't escape buying at least two. This product may actually kill me.

19. Adams Reserve Pumpkin Pie Dip Mix

Why? Why? What do you do with pumpkin pie dip? What could you possibly dip into a pumpkin pie dip? It's too sweet for a cracker and too odd for a vegetable. There's a reason why, in a world filled with pumpkin spice, no one has attempted a pumpkin spice fountain yet.

I suppose you could whip this into some sort of cheesecake dip and dunk a blander cookie or a gingersnap, but the lack of a picture on the box of what the product would even look like is concerning. You don't need a picture of a pumpkin and leaves on the box to identify this, Adams Reserve. You already have the words "pumpkin pie" on there in big letters.

Confession: when I saw this was "dip mix," I at first thought it meant that you were to mix this in with your chewing tobacco. And as gross as that sounds, I'm not convinced that's any weaker an idea that this product is.

20. H-E-B Pumpkin Spice Muffin Bars

I know I keep harping about bad packaging, but seriously, look at how unappetizing this looks. This picture is art-directed within an inch of its life. It has carefullly placed sticks of cinnamon, piles of "spice" that I suspect is also just cinnamon, and a pumpkin in the background. Not to mention that it has a picture of actual muffins (not included) in the background, in case you were wondering what this product was attempting to be.

Now, tune out all that and look at just the bar. Can't you just feel the thing crumble as you try to bite into it, the artificial cream squirting into your mouth as you desperately bring up your other hand in a cupping motion, trying to catch the pieces before they fall all over the floor?

Now that you've done that... can you imagine taking a second bite?


Looks like we're going to have to move this on into one final post. I covered ten products and barely moved two aisles, and there's still plenty to come. Not to mention that - at most - one or two of the items looked appetizing. The second half of this experiment is starting to look rough.

The death of pumpkin spice may be greatly overstated. Tomorrow, we'll see what the rest of this supermarket has in store.