OPINION COLUMNS

Flavor sensation: Pumpkin spice Twinkies push the seasonal craze

By David Talley | Published Saturday, October 7, 2017
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You’d think after years of internet jokes about how every commercial product gets pumpkin-spiced in the fall, there would be more pumpkin spice products out there in October.

Racey and I discovered this week that’s not the case. The Decatur Walmart’s stock of pumpkin spice-flavored items is surprisingly small.

David Talley

David Talley

We set out Thursday with plans to try every product we could find at Walmart and also to sample Starbucks’ pumpkin spice latte and pumpkin spiced chai tea.

I’d downloaded the Walmart app on my phone, hoping to get a preview of what we could expect to find at the store. After browsing 300 items listed under “pumpkin spice,” it seemed like we might find some pretty good stuff. Pumpkin spice Oreos with pumpkin beer is a decent way to spend a fall afternoon unless you’ve got to navigate a corn maze or chaperone a hayride later. Pumpkin spice peanut butter was also on the list, and I could see myself enjoying that.

But we didn’t find those things.

The final list of products we sampled and their rating, awarded in number of pumpkins, is as follows:

PUMKIN SPICE CHEERIOS

I was actually surprised to rank anything five pumpkins, but I like Cheerios. I also like trail mix and absent-mindedly eating things while working at my desk. These made perfectly-munchable trail mix when mixed with almonds, chocolate chips and dried fruit. The pumpkin was subtle enough to enjoy without being overpowering. Though I didn’t eat them with milk, I imagine it would improve the pumpkin even more.

PUMKIN SPICE QUAKER OATMEAL

We cooked this oatmeal Friday morning for breakfast. I found it syrupy without much actual flavor. I was hoping for more brown sugar and cinnamon.

PUMKIN NOOSA YOGURT

Unlike the other products here, I actually eat a lot of Noosa yogurt. They used to sponsor a professional cycling team, and their stuff is pretty healthy. Their other stuff always balances fruit flavor with yogurt flavor well, and the pumpkin yogurt did that, too.

BEN AND JERRY’S PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE ICE CREAM

This was the last item we sampled Thursday, so unfortunately it came after trying seven other pumpkin-flavored foods, which put a damper on how good anything could taste. It was still good, mostly because the pumpkin flavor wasn’t overwhelming.

PUMPKIN SPICE NATURE VALLEY GRANOLA BARS

Nature Valley bars are crunchy and crumbly, and these were no exception. I’d consider them a decent snack if that’s the only pumpkin-flavored item you buy in a shopping trip, but consider them second-tier if you’re planning to purchase any of the others.

PEPPERIDGE FARM PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE COOKIES

These were technically pumpkin cheesecake, not pumpkin spice, which may have hurt their score. I still felt the cheesecake flavoring was too strong, and the pumpkin flavoring was too weak.

HOSTESS PUMKIN SPICE TWINKIES

Twinkies, in any form, aren’t popular in the Messenger newsroom. These were no exception. If you like Twinkies, consider them. The pumpkin spice aspect was a bit overwhelming for my taste.

STARBUCKS ICED PUMPKIN SPICE LATTE

The pumpkin spice latte is probably the drink that started this, and it still holds up. I actually think it’s better iced than hot. It’s not really coffee, but if you’re looking for a fall-flavored milkshake, this is the one.

STARBUCKS PUMPKIN SPICE CHAI TEA

If fall in Texas was any colder, this would be my go-to drink. I really like chai tea, and this had plenty of pumpkin without feeling syrupy.

To be fair, we noticed that Jack in the Box and Sonic also have pumpkin spice shakes. Walmart’s pretzel stand also has a pumpkin spice pretzel, but none of those appealed to either of us. I think the takeaway here is that there are a lot of solid pumpkin spice products online, but that craze isn’t local.

I think pumpkin generally does better when mixed with more natural, familiar flavors, like tea, cheerios or yogurt. Mixing it with whatever is in Twinkies, or even ice cream and cheesecake, didn’t sit right with me.

David Talley is a Messenger reporter.

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