When food fads collide: Pumpkin spice, meet Greek yogurt

It’s that time of year
It’s that time of year
Image: Chobani
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To the delight of pumpkinheads across America, Chobani has unleashed a “limited batch” of Pumpkin Spice Greek yogurt. It’s a match made in heaven for consumers who are already nuts for Greek yogurt and eager to celebrate the arrival of autumn with pumpkin-laced products.

This is perhaps long overdue, given the ubiquity of pumpkin in the packaged foods sector these days, and the fact that Greek yogurt, which has taken over the dairy aisle, lends itself to all sorts of flavoring.

Chobani’s foray into the pumpkin spice category has been, um, smashing. “We literally can’t keep it on shelves,” says Peter McGuinness, Chobani’s head of marketing. The product has been in circulation in stores all over the US for barely a month, and it’s “the fastest-growing SKU,” or single item, “that we’ve ever had,” McGuinness tells Quartz.

“I think we did a really nice take on it,” McGuiness says, acknowledging that “pumpkin mania” is apparent in every corner of the grocery store. Chobani’s Pumpkin Spice contains real pumpkin puree (it’s listed fourth on the ingredients label, which means there is less pumpkin per container than water, sugar, and yogurt) and 12 grams of sugar.

Dannon’s Oikos Greek yogurt also hopped on the pumpkin spice bandwagon for the first time this fall: its Pumpkin Pie flavor also has real pumpkin puree, but contains 19 grams of sugar, 1.5x the amount in Chobani’s version.

Both McGuinness, from Chobani, and Michael Neuwirth, a PR rep for Dannon, say seasonal flavors such as pumpkin spice/pie are designed to “surprise and delight” fans of their brands. That language—”surprise and delight“—describes a tried-and-true marketing strategy for all consumer brands, and it might explain why so many food companies have profited from adding pumpkin to their products, especially when the addition is perceived as whimsical. Trader Joe’s does this stupendously; the California-based grocery chain has sold its own version of pumpkin Greek yogurt for the past two autumns.