Utah’s pumpkin frenzy is already peaking as October beckons

( Francisco Kjolseth | Tribune file photo ) As pumpkin season began in 2015, Whole Foods in Sugar House had all shapes, sizes and colors.

With the advent of autumn, some Utahns get excited about haunted houses and corn mazes. Others look forward to the warmth of spicy drinks.

But there’s a particular seasonal ingredient that always unleashes a frenzy in Utah: pumpkin.

Fall may be just kicking in, but Utah’s demand for pumpkin is already strong, according to data from the food delivery app Grubhub. Based on its proportion of pumpkin-flavored orders, Utah ranks as the nation’s fifth-highest state, after California, Oregon, Washington and Ohio.

So far in 2020, the most popular item is pumpkin pie, which is up 173% in sales over last year, followed by an increase of 161% for pumpkin spice latte orders and 113% more demand for pumpkin curry chicken.

Traditional or revolutionary, pumpkin offerings from local vendors have all done great at this time of the year. Here’s a rundown of the primary pumpkin favorites:

Pumpkin spice doughnut

When the staff of the catering company Culinary Crafts is hired, they are ready to produce a show. This is what their pumpkin spice doughnut, which is part of their flaming station, is all about. They place their glazed pumpkin doughnuts in a pan with melted butter, creating a caramel sauce, and then they ignite them with rum.

A 3- to 5-foot flame rises and the result is a warm and spiced dessert, topped with their seasonal pumpkin gelato.

“We have people request those all the time,” said Meagan Price, marketing coordinator at Culinary Crafts, “especially when people are planning Halloween parties or want something for November and Christmas time.”

(Photo courtesy of Culinary Crafts) Pumpkin spice doughnuts are part of Culinary Craft's flaming station.

Pumpkin spice latte

The pumpkin spice latte is an item on Alchemy Coffee’s menu year-round. Before September, it only accounts for one or two of their sales a month. But when the fall hits, orders jump to 10 to 20 a day. Their regular latte, blended with pumpkin spice syrup from 1883, a flavor company, creates a rich and spicy cup of coffee, said Clint Ruark, a barista at Alchemy Coffee.

“People that like the pumpkin flavor, really like it,” said Ruark. “I think it’s the same people who love pumpkin pie and love that time of year for that sort of flavor.”

Pumpkin pie shake

The best complement to a meal with Arctic Circle’s fry sauce is one of its 25 to 30 seasonal milkshakes. In the middle of every August, the Salt Lake City-born quick-serve restaurants receive calls from customers asking for the ultimate fall item: their pumpkin pie shake. Creamy and topped with whipped cream, it quickly makes up 15% of the company’s milkshake sales, according to Joe Evans, Arctic Circle’s vice president of marketing.

“It is almost like eating a piece of pumpkin pie,” Evans said. Diners can also make their own combination with any shake on their menu, creating their own unique flavor, such as pumpkin pie cheesecake or banana pumpkin pie. “It’s their pumpkin shake; we’ll make it their way,” he said.

Pumpkin ale

New weather, new cravings. Wasatch Brewery created two special beers for the fall, aiming to set the spirit for the fall and Halloween. Its pumpkin ale and Black O’ Lantern stout include warming spices that go well by themselves or mixed in a cocktail. The main ingredient in these spooky brews is Utah’s favorite, pumpkin.

“Wasatch Brewery’s seasonal offerings have always been fan favorites, and these pumpkin beers are no different,” said Caitlin Gold, brand director of Wasatch Brewery.

Pumpkin chocolate chip cookies

The aisles of Meiers Meats and Fine Foods, a specialty grocery store in Highland, also change with the seasons. Its bakery fills with a pumpkin-shaped version of their sugar cookies and they make pumpkin bread, but one of the most popular items is its pumpkin chocolate chip cookie.

“Pumpkin chocolate chip cookies are a huge seller, and people love the pumpkin sugar cookies for parties and family get-togethers,” said Matt Meier, co-owner of the store.

Pumpkin Taste Off

If having different options is important this fall in quarantine, Utah Taste Off, a food marketing company, made a coronavirus-friendly tasting game with kits available for pickup. After a successful pumpkin-themed private event they hosted last year, they decided to have a box in October dedicated solely to pumpkin desserts.

The kit is “based more on the theme than it is on the particular food,” said Kristy Stoner, co-founder of Utah Taste Off. The kits are expected to include a beignet, a sweet roll, a doughnut, a cookie, a piece of cake and a cheesecake. “We love pumpkin. It’s crazy,” she said.