There’s a ‘Pumpkin Spice Tax,’ and It’s Costing Consumers Up to 161% More at the Store – NBC New York

Pumpkin spice is a fall-flavor juggernaut, its the seasoning blend that has launched a thousand dips and it’s the undisputed champion of the cozy comfort of the autumn season, to be sure. Still, according to researchers, your pumpkin spiced items may also contain an uncomfortable truth.

A study that came out on Oct. 17 revealed that the average “pumpkin spice tax” — or how much more a pumpkin-spiced product costs than one that isn’t — is on average 14.1%.

The study was conducted MagnifyMoneya personal finance site owned by LendingTree, and researchers gathered data on 62 grocery products — 31 pumpkin-spiced and 31 not — from three establishments that folks commonly saunter their Uggs and infinity scarves into: Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and Target. Researchers also gathered data on 18 products — nine pumpkin-spiced and nine not — from three coffee shops: Blank Street, Starbucks and Dunkin’.

The study conductors shopped at various stores in the Brooklyn, New York area and said that researchers made sure to purchase many items from many different spots within three zip codes, as it is well-known that different locations of the same store often charge differently for the same items.

Researchers also stated that the disparity in prices of items like ice cream, hummus, beer and coffee are at the highest they’ve been since researchers began the study in 2007.

Take for example an item likely on many shopping lists for cozy mornings as the weather shifts: pancake mix. At Whole Foods, the study found that while a 32-ounce package of 365 by Whole Foods Market pancake & waffle mix costs $3.69; a smaller 20-ounce package of 365 by Whole Foods Market spiced pumpkin pancake & waffle mix costs $5.30, which works out to a 129% increase in cost for the added pumpkin flavoring per ounce.

The largest pumpkin-y price disparity can be found at none other than Trader Joe’s. The study found that while Trader Joe’s Honey Wheat Pretzel Sticks cost 19 cents per ounce, Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Spiced Teeny Tiny Pretzels costs 50 cents per ounce, which means there’s a whopping 161.1% price difference between those two items.

Researchers also found that Trader Joe’s hummus had a disparity of 49.9% in cost per ounce between one with pumpkin flavoring and one without. In fact, seven out of the 10 highest price disparities of the six retailers included in the study were found at either Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s.

On the other end of the spectrum, according to the study, Target had no price disparity between its pumpkin-spiced items and regular items, even at times charging less for pumpkin-spiced items. Which means if you have a pumpkin craving and a thin wallet, it’s clear where you need to go.

But it’s not just the supermarket with the pumpkin spice tax, according to researchers — the coffee shop’s got it, too. Patient zero of the pumpkin spice craze itself, Starbucks, charges $1 more for a Pumpkin Spiced Latte over a Caffe Latte, an 18.3 % difference.

Blank Streeta coffee shop with locations mainly in New York, charges 15.8% more for a 20-ounce Iced Pumpkin Spice Latte than a regular Iced Latte.

Dunkin’, in contrast, charges only slightly more for their autumn soaked treats, at an average of 3.9%. Also worth noting, the price disparity between its Glazed Donut and its Pumpkin Donut — which this writer heartily recommends you try — is 0% .

Lastly, the study found out that interest in pumpkin spice has been waning over the years. According to Google Trends, searches for “pumpkin spice latte” in August 2022 — when PSL searches are at their peak every year — were 29% lower than in August 2018, the highest recorded year for gourd-flavored coffee on record. This means, according to science, prices are steadily rising for pumpkin-spiced items that consumers are steadily losing interest in.

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