Trader Joe’s latest podcast (Episode 29) reveals the Monrovia, Calif.-based retailer’s plans to introduce a plethora of pumpkin and autumn-inspired products this fall. From snacks to candy, baked goods and frozen foods, the products represent categories throughout the store.
This year, more than ever, rolling out seasonal specialties early and strong is a strategic move for grocers looking to sustain already elevated sales, offer customers the comfort foods they crave and, ultimately, drive traffic.
“While many consumers typically went to bakeries and coffee shops to indulge in these annual pumpkin treats, this year looks a little different as more people continue to avoid outings during the pandemic,” said Harris Diamand, VP of customer experience at 1WorldSync, a technology platform and services provider in CPG/retail, foodservice and healthcare. “Grocery shopping has been an escape for many people over the past few months, and Trader Joe’s is leveraging this time to make shopping a more exciting experience for loyal customers.”
This is also likely part of Trader Joe’s strategy to keep foot traffic steady, Diamand said. Unlike other retailers who have embraced online ordering, delivery and curbside pickup, Trader Joe’s has yet to pursue these services, and thus, relies on shoppers in-store.
“While competitors like Kroger, Meijer and Walmart have seen great success by offering these services recently, Trader Joe’s has not yet built the infrastructure for these kinds of transactions, which could dissuade some shoppers from exploring Trader Joe’s stores for a while. However, the brand does have a loyal following and this is definitely a strategic way to hold onto them throughout this season,” said Diamand of Trader Joe’s pumpkin push.
If the lines outside of Trader Joe’s since the start of the pandemic are an indication, the strategy is working.
“Now just about everyone in every type of business has had to make adjustments during this pandemic but we’re proud that Trader Joe’s has maintained a commitment to developing new products, to giving you that sense of discovery on every visit,” said Trader Joe’s Matt Sloan in the latest podcast. “People associate Trader Joe’s with pumpkin stuff in the fall,” affirmed Tara Miller, director of marketing.
Trader Joe’s new products include Pumpkin Spice Pretzel Slims, a pretzel in white chocolate with crushed and spiced pumpkin seeds; Pumpkin Spice Batons, a wafer cookie with pumpkin spice filling; Pumpkin Brioche; Spicy Pumpkin Curry Simmer Sauce; Mini Spicy Pumpkin Samosas; Pumpkin Empanada, a small Mexican-inspired hand pie with classic pumpkin pie spice filling; Everything But The Leftovers, a seasoning blend with classic stuffing flavors; and Turkey Pumpkin Mole Burrito.
“Additionally, Trader Joe’s is known for having a smaller selection of products than typical grocery stores, sometimes fewer than 2,000 products at a time. This is an intentional choice that the brand makes, as it spotlights its private label products that are procured directly from suppliers,” Diamand remarks. “Not only does this keep prices on the low end, but it’s also extremely noticeable when new or seasonal products hit the shelves, causing a new wave of excitement for shoppers that are familiar with its offerings.
“Trader Joe’s knows its customer base very well, so adding these seasonal products to their shelves is a calculated risk they should capitalize on,” he said.
Not only are retailers and foodservice providers offering more pumpkin spice products this year, they are also offering these items earlier than ever before.
“Dunkin' announced the arrival of pumpkin spice in the second week of August, with Starbucks quickly following suit a few days later,” Diamand said. “This is the earliest debut the flavor has ever seen, partially thanks to the pandemic blues and customers awaiting yearend traditions.
“Just a few months ago, retailers were scrambling to get chicken and toilet paper back on the shelves, and now there is pressure to get pumpkin products out there faster than ever before. The early push from coffee chains creates a need for accelerated communication between manufacturers and retailers, and rushed mistakes can result in big consequences and delays,” he cautioned.
This communication is essential, Diamand said, as retailers must make every effort to avoid shortages in inventory and disappointing eager customers.
“If retailers are slow to offer promised pumpkin items in-store or online, that could impact overall traffic as shoppers look elsewhere to get their pumpkin spice fix, and later, other holiday flavors like peppermint or gingerbread.
“While coffee is still the leader for pumpkin spice sales, Trader Joe’s is showing that many categories can see success, such as baking mixes, ice cream, breakfast cereal, bagels and more,” Diamand continued. “While this year is more out of the ordinary for shopping habits, it wouldn’t hurt retailers to stock shelves with new categories of pumpkin they haven’t ventured to before, as shoppers are keen to try new flavors of products they regularly buy.”