Stop the pumpkin spice madness

Tis’ the season. Unfortunately.

I’d like to put that “unfortunately” in giant bold letters with three or four exclamation points and a few underlines to boot, but I have my standards.

pumpkin spice
This little critter started the pumpkin spice movement.

Don’t worry, I am not being a scrounge. So just relax. I am not taking a shot at Christmastime, not in any shape or form whatsoever. Christmas happens to be my favorite time of year, more now as it is also the birthday of my granddaughter. Just saying.

Nope, I am alluding to what has become the pinnacle of annoying times as a shopper. The grand ole’ time when everything under the sun has become infused with pumpkin spice. Gag me now.

This whole trend had a modicum of pleasantness at first. Sure, I liked a latte from Starbucks, especially when the ingredients in it were entirely real (so they said) and not artificial.

But the dyke spewed forth. A deluge of products — ludicrous ones at that — hit shelves everywhere. Consider the repulsiveness of the following:

  • Boulder Canyon Pumpkin Pie Kettle Cooked Potato Chips
  • Kellogg’s Pumpkin Spice Frosted Mini Wheats
  • Pumpkin Spice Oreos
  • Bert’s Bees Pumpkin Spice Lip Balm
  • Extra Pumpkin Spice Gum

It’s like a car wreck. You don’t want to look, but oh man it’s so bad. You just can’t peel your eyes away.

Is this the zenith of the Pumpkin Spice Apocalypse? 

I would give anything to make it go away. As Forbes indicated, however, the movement has become a $500 million niche craze, thanks to Starbucks.

You’ve got to be kidding me.

I beg of you, I plead. I’ll give you your latte if you promise me no more scented lightbulbs or dog cologne or Pringles. I just can’t take it any longer.

Sales at Keurig are down, having overexposed itself

I have long expressed my addiction to coffee. It’s big time, friends. I can’t control it and I am not ashamed to admit it. My habit is so intense that every morning, even before I hit the shower, I’ve already downed two or three cups.

Sipping my first cup of coffee brings me to the light. It pulls me out of my morning grog and massages my mind into a semblance of alertness. The second cup drops me at the doorstep of normalcy. While the third and fourth give me pizzazz.

Keurig
Could Keurig be overexposed?

For years, I have been relying on a Keurig machine to provide caffeinated goods. My first machine came my way back in 2008 (crazy that I can remember that, isn’t it?). There was something so cool about plugging a K-cup into the mouth of the machine, hitting the brew size and getting a piping mug a minute later. Even if the coffee wasn’t as complex tasting as a traditional pot of coffee, the process was different enough from the norm to keep me coming back.

Since then, K-cups have become the new standard. Which, ironically, isn’t all that good for Keurig.

Keurig has oversaturated its own market

Back when I wrote about my love of Nespresso, I failed to mention that it’s greatest power is the brand’s scarcity. Scarcity can be a value for any brand because we instinctively want it more if it’s not easily available to us. It may seem counter-intuitive, but sometimes brands actually lose market share when they are too available. Krispy Kreme used to be a destination because it had a niche feel. But when it expanded too fast and opened stores all across the nation, its sales actually dropped.

I do drink coffee from K-cups with reckless abandon, but my preference is waning. In fact, I recently unplugged the machine and dusted off a French press. I have found pleasure in selecting locally roasted  beans that I can brew just about as quickly as I can a K-cup.

I am not surprised that Keurig sales are falling. Moreover, the moment it instituted the Keurig 2.0 and Kold machines I sensed bad times were ahead. Keurig, a company that once held the market in the palm of its hands, has become less special.

As a coffee drinker, I move in fads. My fad now is the French press. The next one might be the slow pour. After that, who knows,? Perhaps a Bialetti? Throughout, I am sure I will have K-cups, but I won’t consider the experience all that unique anymore.

Nothing beats a Nespresso

I can’t go through any morning without a cup o’ joe. One of life’s great pleasures (for me at least) is that first sip of fresh brew. It makes me instantly feel awake. My whole world seems brighter with that first taste. Sure, that’s psychosomatic and all. But whatever, I’ll take it.

My addiction to coffee is fierce. By 10 am, I am usually four cups deep — and feeling on top of my game. Coffee no longer makes me jittery, as it did when I first began drinking it. Now it just makes me feel at ease.

This habit of mine has undoubtedly made me a bit of a bean snob. I won’t get anywhere near instant coffee nor for the shiny gold bags provided in hotel rooms. No sir, none of that is for me.

Nespresso
Having a Nespresso machine means you are a coffee connoisseur.

I want the good stuff. I love a french press with ripe beans ground for eight seconds. Actually, I find this to be one of the best methods in serving a newly minted roast and I enjoy the process. I like the Keurig for its ease of use but the pods have to be top of the line. Most of all, I love having coffee from a Nespresso machine.

Nespresso drinkers have taste

While my morning coffee is purposeful, a mug of Nespresso is an experience. What’s funny about that is that everything about the Nespresso brand itself points right back to the idea of it being an experience with its own unique process.

Consider this: Nespresso capsules (a more serious noun than “pod”) can only be ordered online. When you click on a particular capsule, you get a story about it accompanied by a savory picture. What’s more, you are provided with a similar “aromatic profile”of coffees. All this ties in seamlessly with the Nespresso brand — that when when you sip it, you are a true connoisseur of coffee. It’s what your self-identification becomes.

To fulfill that brand face, Nespresso brand has considered your senses with its coffee. In fact, it’s toyed with my senses so much so that, as I am tapping away at my keys, I envisioning sipping a cup.

Such a shame my machine is 25 minutes away at home.

Starbucks delivery extends the brand

The Starbucks brand has morphed over the years from being a trend-setting hipster brand to being a brand about experience and customer satisfaction.

At its core, Starbucks has always been about the experience and customer satisfaction. But as the company has matured, that core has been presented in novel ways and Starbucks starting a delivery service in the Empire State Building is just another example of this.

The lucky folks in the Empire State Building will get this delivered.
The lucky folks in the Empire State Building will get this delivered.

On Tuesday, the Starbucks delivery pilot began to deliver food and beverages to the 12,000 people who work in the building. The minimal $2 fee per delivery covers up to 15 items and, for the intern who is schlepping coffee all day, this must come as a welcome development.

The reality is much broader, however. Starbucks wants to make it possible to bring the Starbucks experience out of the coffee shop and directly to the consumer. You can argue if a Starbucks delivery is any kind of substitute for the Starbucks in-store experience, but it has already gone down this path by selling coffee in the aisles of grocery stores with bags and K-cups.

How delivery is part of the Starbucks brand.

Bringing the barista-created caffeine creations directly to consumers is yet another extension of wanting to fulfill the promise of experience and customer satisfaction. (By the way, Starbucks is also partnering with Postmates for an on-demand delivery service in the Seattle market.) Sure it’s now a $10 for cup of coffee with the delivery fee, but Starbucks has already made customers very comfortable in paying for very expensive coffee. And now, they don’t even have to leave their cubicle to enjoy the Starbucks experience.

It is really sad that there are only a precious few brands that actually get it right. Starbucks is not without missteps but, by and large, it does a really good job of staying focused and consistent while always trying to push the boundaries of what it means to be a coffee shop. This step into Starbucks delivery seems to be right on brand and I believe it will be successful.

Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte is real

It’s that time of year again.

The time when everywhere you look, the artificially concocted blend of pumpkin spice has been added to everything you eat and drink.

The pumpkin spice is real.
The pumpkin spice is real.

The pile of goods sold with the fake melange of pumpkin spice is absurd. That’s why when I read Starbucks was going all in with a natural pumpkin spice, I took notice.

Natural ingredients are emerging in the QSR industry. 

A latte with real pumpkin in it. What on Earth they think up next?

All snark aside, the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte is, in actuality, a part of a radical trend occurring in the Quick Service Restaurant industry; a topic we’ve spent much time deliberating on at Stealing Share.

This simple switch by Starbucks is an acknowledgment of the public’s desire to eat healthier food. It’s why Panera has recently trashed 150 artificial ingredients from it’s menu.

It’s also why chains like McDonald’s and Taco Bell are trying their best to come up with alternatives to the antibiotic laden foods that have riddled each menu. But that’s not working to so well either.

And so Starbucks too has joined the fresh food club.

Starbucks should fix all artificial ingredients, not just one at a time. 

My hope is that Starbucks quickly sees the benefit in having natural pumpkin spice in its lattes, and opts to fix the entire menu quickly.

In my eyes, an establishment like Starbucks should recognize that it is already seen as a place that offers you the freshest and best ingredients. It does not have permission to be a McDonalds, Burger King or Taco Bell.

By doing so, rather than snipping the dog’s tail an inch of the time, the public won’t feel like they’ve been duped with artificial ingredients and flavors.