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Pumpkin Creep – Is It About Sex?


Retailers are known to push their luck on a good thing. When a holiday like Halloween or and event like Black Friday brings customers in the door, most retailers can’t help themselves when it comes to extending the selling period.

That’s why retailers like Target have opened their stores on Thanksgiving Day to get a jump on Black Friday – which is traditionally the day after Thanksgiving. The Halloween retail season began the day after Labor Day.

Many food and beverage retailers have found pumpkin flavored products to resonate with consumers and to be a perfect bridge between summer and the Christmas holiday season (which used to begin immediately after Thanksgiving but now begins around Halloween).

Pumpkin has the strongest connotation of fall. So across the board, from McDonald’s to Starbucks to DQ – pumpkin flavored products have rolled out in the past few weeks. All while we’re sweating up a storm in 90 degree heat across much of the US.

Turns out consumer’s love of pumpkin isn’t just about the flavor, or even the season. It’s also about sex.

In the 1990s, a researcher at the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago found that the smell of pumpkin pie, especially combined with a whiff of lavender, proved highly arousing to men. Granted, the research also found few scents that didn’t arouse men…but pumpkin was definitely not one of them.

Go to any coffee shop these days and watch who orders the pumpkin spice latte’. 90% are women (that’s an unofficial count). Same thing with chocolate flavored drinks. Sinful is how women have always described chocolate. But despite so, do you know that 99% of all women love chocolate and that they may actually prefer chocolate more to than to sex?

Its wonderful taste aside, chocolate contains phenylethylamine – the same chemical that is released in your brain when you fall in love; leading to that increase in the pounding of your heart, feeling of a sudden gush of excitement. It is also believed by researchers that phenylethylamine in turn causes the brain to release mesolimbic dopamine in the pleasure centers of the brain, another chemical where its presence is at peak during an orgasm.

OK, enough of science class…it’s clear that pumpkin creep is not about jumping the fall season but more about the subtlety of sex in consumer decision-making. These brands know what their customers want – and it might be just a little more love.

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