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Gephardt Busts Inflation: Want to bust inflation? Avoid pumpkin spice!


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SALT LAKE CITY — Pumpkin spice is not just for pumpkin pie anymore. It has become a marketing triumph in branding. And as the weather turns colder, as it has in Utah this week, we start craving it — and companies are capitalizing on our cravings.

As far as most people can remember, the cravings started with the Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks. Since then, the fall tradition has gone haywire.

There's pumpkin spice coffee, pumpkin spice breakfast cereal, pumpkin spice energy drinks — there's even pumpkin spice flavored Twinkies. Outside of food, you've got a pumpkin spice Build-A-Bear, pumpkin spice socks, and if you're still undecided on a Halloween costume, you can dress up as pumpkin spice.

Consumers want pumpkin spice, and companies are happy to deliver — for a price, of course.

"People are paying what we call the 'pumpkin spice tax,'" said Ismat Mangla, executive editor for MagnifyMoney, which has been studying the markup on all things pumpkin spice for a few years now.

The data, shared with the KSL Investigators, shows pumpkin spice comes at a premium.

"Pumpkin spice items are about on average 14.1% more expensive than their non-pumpkin spice counterparts," Mangla said.

That is the average. It could be more.

Take the Trader Joe's Pumpkin Spiced Teeny Tiny Pretzels. They cost 161.1% more than the store's Honey Wheat Pretzel Sticks. Whole Foods' pumpkin spice pancake mix was 129.8% more expensive than the non-spiced. And that infamous Starbucks latte jumps up 18.3% higher just with a sprinkle of pumpkin spice.

"People are willing to pay a little bit more for this fun, little seasonal trend," Mangla said of pumpkin spice.

She added that it is important to note that in terms of real dollars, pumpkin spice foods and products are not big-ticket items. Sure, that pumpkin spice drink or snack might cost you a buck or two extra, but at least it's not like there's pumpkin spice big screen TVs to spend more money on.

"Exactly," Mangla said. "I feel like there's probably other ways that will make a more significant difference on busting inflation because look, if you want to indulge in a little pumpkin spice goodness, I say it's OK. Go for it."

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Matt Gephardt
Matt Gephardt has worked in television news for more than 20 years, and as a reporter since 2010. He is now a consumer investigative reporter for KSL TV. You can find Matt on Twitter at @KSLmatt or email him at matt@ksl.com.

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