5 Chains Joining Starbucks in the Pumpkin Spice Craze

By Markets Fool.com

Pumpkin Cheesecake Bar is one of the many new menu items at Starbucks. Image source: Starbucks.

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It's been a dozen years sinceStarbucks made "pumpkin spice" part of our vernacular. The baron of baristas kicked off a new season of whipping up pumpkin spice lattes on Tuesday.

We're not just talking about the now famous coffee beverages tweaked with pumpkin spice. Baked treats at Starbucks now include pumpkin-fueled cheesecake bars, muffins, scones, and sugar cookies.

Starbucks isn't alone. Pumpkins aren't just for jack o' lanterns on Halloween and pumpkin pies on Thanksgiving anymore. Let's take a look at what a few other publicly traded chains are doing with pumpkins this season.

Darden Restaurants' Olive Garden

Olive Garden isn't afraid to ride trends, even if they don't jibe with its Italian theme. Parent company Darden Restaurants (NYSE: DRI) didn't blink when the gourmet-burger craze was rolling, introducing its Italiano Burger three years ago.

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Pumpkin cheesecake is on the menu now at Olive Garden. You can't blame Darden Restaurants for going this route. You've got to give patrons what they want, and it's just one of eight dessert options.

Berkshire Hathaway's Dairy Queen

Dairy Queen, the ice cream stand under the ownership of Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK-B), isn't backing away from the seasonal mania. It reintroduced its Pumpkin Pie Blizzard to all of its domestic locations two weeks ago. It blends up Dairy Queen's signature vanilla soft serve with pumpkin pie pieces, topped with whipped cream and nutmeg.

This isn't the only time a Berkshire Hathaway company has gone this route. Its See's Candies confectionary has offered pumpkin spice lollipops and truffles in the past.

McDonald's

You have to go back a few years to the first instance when McDonald's (NYSE: MCD) tried to take on Starbucks with McCafe. The burger giant began offering caramel lattes and mocha frappes, trying to ride the coattails of Starbucks' success.

It's only natural for that copycat mindset to lead up to the most famous seasonal drink at Starbucks. McDonald's began serving up its own version of the Pumpkin Spice Latte last year. It's back with it again, hoping that its lower prices and drive-thru convenience help make it a viable alternate to satisfy the Starbucks fix.

Jamba Juice

Smoothies also get the pumpkin treatment. Jamba Juice (NASDAQ: JMBA) introduced almond milk smoothies last year, and pumpkin was a flavor at the launch. The non-dairy beverage blends pumpkin and bananas with almond milk.

This isn't the only pumpkin beverage available at Jamba Juice. Its Fall Favorites menu has included a traditional pumpkin smoothie in the past. They're still not available this year, but a social-media posting over the weekend suggests that the cult fave drinks are coming soon.

Dunkin' Brands

There are plenty of ways to get your pumpkin on at Dunkin' Donuts. The chain, owned by Dunkin' Brands (NASDAQ: DNKN), has glazed pumpkin cake doughnuts and doughnut holes. There's also a pumpkin-spiced muffin topped off with streusel and icing.

Pumpkin is also available in many of its coffee beverages. Java sippers can customize their latte or macchiato orders with sweetened pumpkin syrup. Dunkin' Brands, like the other chains ramping up their pumpkin options, don't have much of a choice. You have to give the people what they want, and it's clear what they want this time of year.

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Rick Munarriz owns shares of Jamba. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Berkshire Hathaway (B shares) and Starbucks. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.