The Pumpkin Spice Tax: Retailers Charge More, Shoppers Get Less for Pumpkin-Flavored Products


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Cue the pumpkin spice tax rebellion.
A MagnifyMoney analysis of pumpkin spice-flavored items at several grocery stores and coffee shops found that customers often pay a premium for that perennial autumn flavor — in essence, a “pumpkin spice tax” that can be up to 133 percent higher on a per-unit (ounces) basis.
In the study, we compared the prices of the pumpkin spice and standard flavors of more than 200 food and beverage items at a half-dozen Manhattan-area retailers and restaurants in late September. We reviewed items in person at Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Fairway, CVS, Starbucks, Pret a Manger, Panera, Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonald’s. We supplemented our findings with a review of products at three online retailers — Walmart.com, Target.com and FreshDirect.com.
Pumpkin spice mania has reached a fever pitch in recent years, as retailers have rushed to incorporate the flavor into just about every item in our pantries — from cookies and cereals to bagels and waffle mixes.
Not only are some retailers charging significant surcharges on pumpkin spice-flavored products, but consumers are often paying more and getting less in return.
Read on for our full analysis. Or skip ahead to:


Top 10 Pumpkin Spice Tax Rates
The Pumpkin Spice Latte Tax




Retailer Spotlights:







Key Findings:
Pumpkin spice fans often pay more for less . Many retailers don’t just charge more for seasonal items — they give shoppers less product for their money. On FreshDirect.com, for example, a 6.5-oz. Pumpkin Pie Spice version of Land O’Lakes Spreadable Butter sold for $2.99, while the 8-oz. Land O’Lakes Spreadable Butter With Canola Oil sold for about 10 cents less, or $2.89. On a price per ounce basis, the Pumpkin pie spice option sold at a 28 percent premium. We found many more examples of retailers charging more for pumpkin-flavored products but offering less product.
Trader Joe’s was the worst pumpkin spice tax offender . Some retailers are more aggressive with pumpkin spice surcharges than others.. It claimed three of the top 10 highest pumpkin spice tax rates in our study. Among 10 products analyzed at Trader Joe’s, for example, we found an average pumpkin spice tax rate of 62%. By comparison, the average pumpkin spice tax rate at Target.com was just 14% across 20 items.
Coffee drinkers’ highest pumpkin spice premium? Welcome to Starbucks . The highest tax on the seasonal coffee drink was charged by the Pumpkin Spice Latte’s originator, Starbucks. The coffee chain charged $5.25 for its 16-oz. Pumpkin Spice Latte — exactly one dollar more than its 16-oz. Caffe Latte, sold for $4.25, in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. That’s an effective pumpkin spice tax rate of 23.53%.
McDonald’s, Dunkin’ Donuts and Whole Foods don’t charge a seasonal premium on most items . MagnifyMoney observed no significant pumpkin spice premium on any of the 10 seasonal items we identified at Whole Foods Market. Nor did we observe a premium on pumpkin spice drink options at McDonald’s or Dunkin’ Donuts.

The Top 10 Pumpkin Spice Tax Rates
Across all items reviewed, millennial-centric retailer Trader Joe’s charged the highest premiums on its pumpkin-flavored products. It claimed three of the top 10 highest pumpkin spice tax rates in our study.


The retailer is also one of several in our study that not only charges more for pumpkin-spice products but often offers less product by weight as well. That means shoppers are spending more but getting much less for their money.
Take Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Pancake and Waffle Mix as one example. The national chain charged $1.99 for its 32-ounce Buttermilk Pancake and Waffle Mix and $2.99 for its 21.2-ounce Pumpkin Pancake and Waffle Mix variation — $1 more for a product with 10 fewer ounces.
Based on the sticker price alone, shoppers may think they paid 50% more for the pumpkin spice version. But on a price-per-ounce basis, they paid more than twice the price — an effective pumpkin spice tax rate of 133%.
Trader Joe’s certainly wasn’t the only retailer taking advantage of the pumpkin spice hype.
At first glance, a Target.com shopper might see no difference in the price of Nabisco’s Oreos vs. the pumpkin spice version. As of late September, they had the same sticker price of $2.99. But the pumpkin spice version came with just 10.7 ounces — 3.6 ounces less than the original flavor. On a price per ounce basis, that’s an effective pumpkin spice tax rate of 33%.
See some of the highest-taxed items below. Percentages may be rounded, and list prices are used for comparisons. Per-unit cost is based on per-ounce figures where available, or per unit/count):







Pumpkin Spice Tax




Retailer Product Sticker Price Price Per Oz./Unit Per Oz./Unit Sticker Price


1. Trader Joe's Buttermilk Pancake
and waffle mix — 32 oz. $1.99 $0.06 133% 50.25%


Pumpkin Pancake and
waffle mix — 21.2 oz. $2.99 $0.14


2. Trader Joe's Joe Joe's cookies —
20 oz. $2.99 $0.15 87% 0.00%


Pumpkin Joe Joe's —
10.5 oz. $2.99 $0.28


3. Trader Joe's Joes O's —
15 oz. $1.99 $0.13 69% 35.18%


Pumpkin O's —
12 oz. $2.69 $0.22


4. Walmart.com Twinings of London
Winter Holiday Spiced
Apple Chai, K-Cup
Portion Pack — 12 ct. $8.11 $0.68 59% 60.17%


Twinings Pumpkin
Spice Chai Tea Keurig
K-Cups — 12 ct. $12.99 $1.08


5. Target.com Archer Farms Dark Chocolate Almonds — 13 oz. $5.99 $0.46 59% -33.4%


Archer Farms Pumpkin Spice Almonds — 5.5 oz. $3.99 $0.73


6. Target.com Krusteaz Honey
Cornbread & Muffin
Mix — 15 oz. $1.67 $0.11 36.4% 35.9%


Krusteaz Pumpkin
Spice Muffin
Mix — 15 oz. $2.27 $0.15


7. Target.com Oreo Original
Chocolate Sandwich
Cookies — 14.3 oz. $2.99 $0.21 33% 0.00%


Oreo Pumpkin
Spice Creme Sandwich
Cookies — 10.7 oz. $2.99 $0.28


8. FreshDirect Land O'Lakes
Spreadable Butter With
Canola Oil — 8 oz. $2.89 $0.36 28% 3.46%


Land O'Lakes
Spreadable Butter,
Pumpkin Pie
Spice — 6.5 oz. $2.99 $0.46


9. Walmart.com Victor Allen's
Coffee Donut Shop
Blend Medium Roast
Single Serve Brew
Cups — 0.35 oz., 12 ct.
$3.25 $0.27 26% 26.8%


Victor Allen's Coffee
Pumpkin Spice Medium
Roast Single Serve Brew
Cups — 0.34 oz., 12 ct.
$4.12 $0.34


10. Walmart.com Entenmann's Dark
Roast Coffee Single Serve
Cups — 0.35 oz, 10 ct. $6.99 $0.69 23.2% 21.6%


Entenmann's Coffee
Pumpkin Spice Cups —
10 ct. $8.50 $0.85





The above items were reviewed in-person at retailers in the Chelsea area of Manhattan on Sept. 22 and with online retailers on Sept. 25-26.



The Pumpkin Spice Latte Tax
Some may notice that the coveted pumpkin spice latte (PSL) — made popular by Starbucks after its debut in fall 2003 and now offered by coffee shops worldwide — typically carries a noticeable mark-up.
Starbucks’ grande-size PSL, for example, is sold at a 23.5% premium above the price of its non-pumpkiny caffe latte counterpart.
Pret a Manger and Panera also charge more for pumpkin lattes, although neither quite as high as Starbucks.
What you ultimately pay for your PSL may simply come down to how you like your coffee. You won’t pay a PSL tax at McDonald’s or Dunkin’ Donuts, but If you prefer Starbucks or Panera, paying the premium may be worth what you get.
Here’s what it will cost you to buy a 16-ounce pumpkin spice latte at some prominent national coffee chains in the Chelsea section of Manhattan.







Coffee Shop Product Sticker
Price Pumpkin Spice
Tax Rate




Starbucks Caffe Latte
16 oz. $4.25 23.53%


Pumpkin Spice Latte
16 oz. $5.25


Pret A Manger Latte
16 oz. $3.59 13.93%


Spiced Pumpkin Latte
16 oz. $4.09


Starbucks Chai Latte
16 oz. $4.45 11.24%


Pumpkin Spice Chai Latte
16 oz. $4.95


Panera Bread Caffe Latte
16 oz. $4.09 4.89%


Pumpkin Spice Latte
16 oz. $4.29


Dunkin’ Donuts Latte
16 oz. $2.99 0.00%


Pumpkin Flavored Latte
16 oz. $2.99


McDonald’s Latte
16 oz. $2.59 0.00%


Pumpkin Spice Latte
16 oz. $2.59





The above items were reviewed in-person at retailers in the Chelsea area of Manhattan on Sept. 22.



Retailer Spotlight: Trader Joe’s
As mentioned above, America’s favorite favorite grocery store after Publix and Wegmans had the highest-taxed seasonal items in our analysis.
Among the highest-taxed items: Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Pancake and Waffle Mix — costing much more per ounce than TJ’s Buttermilk Pancake and Waffle Mix — and Joe Joe’s cookies.
Both the seasonal and nonseasonal Joe Joe’s are priced at $2.99 on the sticker. However, the seasonal Pumpkin Joe Joe’s cost 28 cents per ounce, while the regular Joe Joe’s cost 15 cents an ounce. In this case, customers pay almost double per ounce — something like the same price for half the cookies.
MagnifyMoney reached out to Trader Joe’s for comment but did not receive a response.
See below for a breakdown of some products.







Trader Joe's Pumpkin Spice Tax




Product Sticker Price Price Per Oz./Unit Per Oz./Unit Sticker Price


Buttermilk pancake and
waffle mix — 32 oz. $1.99 $0.06 133% 50.25%


Pumpkin pancake and waffle mix — 21.2 oz. $2.99 $0.14


Joe Joe's cookies — 20 oz. $2.99 $0.15 87% 0.00%


Pumpkin Joe Joe's — 10.5 oz. $2.99 $0.28


Joes O's — 15 oz. $1.99 $0.13 69% 35.18%


Pumpkin O's — 12 oz. $2.69 $0.22


Plain bagels — 6 ct. $2.29 $0.38 10.5% 8.73%


Pumpkin bagels — 6 ct. $2.49 $0.42


Gluten-free buttermilk
pancake mix — 18 oz. $3.99 $0.22 9.1% 12.53%


Gluten-free pumpkin
pancake mix — 18.5 oz. $4.49 $0.24





The above items were reviewed in-person at the Trader Joe’s at 675 6th Ave. in New York City on Sept. 22.



Retailer Spotlight: Target
We found the highest seasonal-item, per-unit “tax” at Target.com on chocolate-covered pumpkin spice almonds.
At first glance, the seasonal almonds look cheaper than the comparable dark chocolate-covered almonds, sold in a larger package. When you look closer, you realize the pumpkin spice almonds are sold for almost 60 percent more per ounce. However, it’s important to note the discrepancy could be due to the difference in packaging.
MagnifyMoney contacted Target for comment but did not receive a response.
See below for a breakdown of the PST applied online at Target.com.






Target.com Pumpkin Spice Tax




Product Sticker Price Price Per Oz./Unit Per Oz./Unit Sticker Price


Archer Farms Dark Chocolate Almonds — 13 oz. $5.99 $0.46 59% -33.4%


Archer Farms Pumpkin Spice Almonds
— 5.5 oz. $3.99 $0.73


Krusteaz Honey Cornbread &
Muffin Mix — 15 oz. $1.67 $0.11 36.4% 35.9%


Krusteaz Pumpkin Spice
Muffin Mix — 15 oz. $2.27 $0.15


Oreo Original Chocolate
Sandwich Cookies — 14.3 oz. $2.99 $0.21 33% 0.00%


Oreo Pumpkin Spice Creme
Sandwich Cookies — 10.7 oz. $2.99 $0.28


International Delight® French
Vanilla Singles Coffee Creamer — 24 ct. $2.64 $0.11 18.2% 20.8%


International Delight Pumpkin
Spice Coffee Creamer — 24 ct. $3.19 $0.13


Tazo Organic Tea Latte
Chai Black Tea — 32 fl. oz. $3.14 $0.10 10% 11.2%


Tazo Chai Pumpkin Spice
Latte Tea Concentrate — 32 fl. oz. $3.49 $0.11


Keurig Green Mountain Breakfast
Blend Light Roast Coffee — K-Cup Pods — 18 ct. $10.99 $0.61 9.8% 9.1%


Keurig Green Mountain Coffee
Pumpkin Spice Coffee K-Cups — 18 ct. $11.99 $0.67


KISSES Halloween Fall Harvest
Milk Chocolates — 11 oz./approx. 69 ct. $3.59 $0.33 9.1% 0.00%


KISSES Halloween Fall Harvest
Pumpkin Spice — 10 oz./approx. 64 ct. $3.59 $0.36


Tazo Chai Black Tea — 20 ct. $3.14 $0.16 6.3% 11.2%


Tazo Chai Pumpkin Spice
Tea — 20 ct. $3.49 $0.17


Quaker Fruit & Cream Instant
Oatmeal Variety — 8 ct. $2.59 $0.32 6.25% 5.8%


Quaker Pumpkin Spice Instant
Oatmeal Limited Edition — 8 ct. $2.74 $0.34


Archer Farms Antioxidant Trail Mix — 9 oz. $5.99 $0.67 -50.7% -50.1%


Archer Farms Trail Mix Pumpkin Spice —
9 oz. $2.99 $0.33





The above items were reviewed online, at Target.com, on Sept. 25-26.



Retailer Spotlight: Walmart
At Walmart.com, the most-taxed item was tea. Specifically: Twinings of London’s Pumpkin Spice Chai Tea Keurig Cups. Compared with the brand’s Winter Holiday Spiced Apple Chai flavor, the pumpkin spice variant costs about 60 percent more for the same number of cups. MagnifyMoney contacted Walmart for comment but did not yet receive a response.
See below for a breakdown of the Pumpkin Spice Tax applied online at Walmart.com.







Walmart.com Pumpkin Spice Tax




Product Sticker Price Price Per Oz./Unit Per Oz./Unit Sticker Price


Twinings of London Winter Holiday
Spiced Apple Chai, K-Cup Portion Pack — 12 ct. $8.11 $0.68 59% 60.17%


Twinings Pumpkin Spice Chai Tea
Keurig K-Cups — 12 ct. $12.99 $1.08


Victor Allen's Coffee Donut Shop
Blend Medium Roast Single Serve Brew Cups —
0.35 oz., 12 ct. $3.25 $0.27 26% 26.8%


Victor Allen's Coffee Pumpkin Spice
Medium Roast Single Serve Brew Cups —
0.34 oz., 12 ct. $4.12 $0.34


Entenmann's Dark Roast Coffee
Single Serve Cups — 0.35 oz., 10 ct. $6.99 $0.69 23.2% 21.6%


Entenmann's Coffee Pumpkin
Spice Cups — 10 ct./p> $8.50 $0.85


Coffee-Mate Sweetened Original
Liquid Coffee Creamer — 1.5-liter pump bottle $24.36 $0.48 18.7% 19%


Coffee-Mate Liquid Creamer, Pumpkin Spice — 1.5-liter pump bottle $28.98 $0.57


Keurig K-Cups, Green Mountain
Nantucket Blend Coffee — 18 ct. $10.98 $0.61 8.2% 8.74%


Keurig K-Cups Green Mountain
Pumpkin Spice Coffee — 18 ct. $11.94 $0.66


Nestle Professional Coffee-Mate
Peppermint Mocha Liquid Coffee Creamer Singles,
Peppermint Mocha Flavor — 0.38 fl. oz. - 50/box $15.04 $0.30 6.7% 6.3%


Nestle Coffee-Mate Pumpkin Spice
Liquid Coffee Creamer — 50-0.375 fl. oz. tubs $15.99 $0.32


Oreo Sandwich Cookies — 14.3 oz. $3.83 $0.27 3.7% -22.2%


Oreo Sandwich Cookies Pumpkin
Spice — 10.7 oz. $2.98 $0.28


Pepperidge Farm Milano Milk
Chocolate Cookies — 6 oz. pack $3.83 $0.64 -14.1% 0.00%


Pepperidge Farm Pumpkin Spice
Milano Cookies — 7 oz. $3.83 $0.55


Lindt Lindor Hazelnut Milk
Chocolate Truffles — 5.1 oz. $3.78 $0.74 -16.2% 16.4%


Lindt Lindor Milk Chocolate Truffles
Pumpkin Spice — 5.1 oz. $3.16 $0.62


Quaker Life Multigrain Cereal,
Vanilla — 18 oz. box $3.83 $0.21 -19% -21.7%


Quaker Life Pumpkin Spice
Multigrain Cereal Limited Edition — 18 oz. $3.00 $0.17


International Delight French Vanilla
Non-Dairy Coffee Creamer Singles — 24 ct. box $3.28 $0.14 -28.6% -24.4%


International Delight Pumpkin Pie
Spice Non-Dairy Coffee Creamer Singles — 24 ct. box $2.48 $0.10





The above items were reviewed online, at Walmart.com, on Sept. 25-26.
The future of pumpkin spice
The latest  Nielsen data  shows Americans’ taste for all things pumpkin spice is still going strong, but has begun to wane in recent years. Sales of pumpkin-themed consumer goods were up 6.3 percent in 2017, bringing in $414 million vs. $389.5 million in 2016.  But that was a slower rate of growth than the year prior, when sales grew by 10.8%.
Still, that won’t stop retailers from seizing an opportunity to cash in on the trend while it’s still hot, said food industry analyst and editor of Supermarketguru.com, Phil Lempert .
“A lot of that has to do with the time of year that it is packed and the amount of money that it takes to store those products…which is why at times we are going to see higher prices on those products,” he told MagnifyMoney.
Lempert added that companies have to make up the cost of carrying and storing the additional seasonal items in a warehouse.  “You want to get it out there at a fair price but you want to cover your costs otherwise you don’t have a business,” he said.
If you’re determined to get your pumpkin spice kick this year, the longer you wait to buy, the more likely you’ll be able to score a deal. Seasonal items tend to get the steepest price cuts as the season ends and retailers move to clear out their inventory.



The post The Pumpkin Spice Tax: Retailers Charge More, Shoppers Get Less for Pumpkin-Flavored Products appeared first on MagnifyMoney .