specialty pumpkinsPumpkins. The quintessential autumn vegetable. Carved into jack-o-lanterns for Halloween. Baked into pies for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Used as a flavoring in everything from coffee and creamers to ice cream, beer, and rum. In the 52 weeks ended August 25, 2018, pet parents spent more than $109 million for pumpkin-flavored dog food, a 124% jump from the previous 52-week period. For several years now pumpkin has been the most popular Halloween costume for pets.

Today’s market size shows the total production value of pumpkins in the United States in 2017. That year, growers harvested 69,340 acres, down from 71,400 acres in 2016, but well above the 45,900 acres a decade ago. The production value of pumpkins for the fresh market was $172.1 million in 2017, far above the $13.6 million for pumpkins harvested for processing. In acres harvested, the top 5 states were Illinois, Ohio, Indiana, California, and New York. Nearly 80% of Illinois’ pumpkin harvest is grown for processing.

In recent years the demand for specialty and heirloom pumpkin varieties has grown. Some popular varieties include Big Mac, Blue, Cotton Candy, Valenciano, Festival, Cinderella and Fairytale. The Cotton Candy and Valenciano varieties have a white hue. The Fairytale variety turns a shade of mahogany when mature. The Cinderella, so named because of its resemblance to Cinderella’s transformed coach, is a French heirloom variety that was cultivated by the Pilgrims.

Geographic reference: United States
Year: 2017
Market size: $185.8 million
Sources: “Quick Stats,” United States Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Statistics Service available online here; Ana Serafin Smith, “Halloween Spending to Reach $9 Billion,” National Retail Federation Press Release, September 20, 2018 available online here; “Pumpkin Spice Sales Growth Makes a Hot Return in Late-August” available online here; “Pumpkins: Background & Statistics,” United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, September 13, 2018 available online here; “Historical Highlights and Related Releases,” National Retail Federation available online here; Tess Koman, “55 Fall-Flavored Things You Can Eat Right Now,” Delish, September 12, 2018 available online here; Lizzie Fuhr, “8 Funky Pumpkin Varieties for a Festive Fall,” PopSugar, October 5, 2012 available online here.
Image source: Renee_Olmsted_Photography, “pumpkins-halloween-stems-autumn-956428,” Pixabay, September 25, 2015 available online here.

Christmas Trees

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Your leaves are faithful ever!
Not only green when summer glows
But in the winter when it snows,

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Your faithful leaves will teach me
That hope and love and constancy
Give joy and peace eternally.

— Partial verses of one version of the song “O Christmas Tree” based on the German song “O Tannenbaum,” composed by Ernst Anschütz in 1824.

The Christmas tree tradition as we know it, with trees brought into the home and decorated, began in Germany in the 16th century. In the 1800s German immigrants brought this tradition to the United States, but the tradition was not accepted by most Americans at the time as they considered a Christmas tree a pagan symbol. Then in 1846, the Illustrated London News published a sketch of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, and their children standing around a Christmas tree. Due to Queen Victoria’s popularity and a desire to emulate the royal family’s customs, the Christmas tree became a popular decoration among high-society families in America.

Starting in 1851 Christmas trees began to be sold commercially in the United States, procured at random from nearby forests. In 1883 Sears, Roebuck & Company began selling artificial Christmas trees. The popularity of real Christmas trees increased across the country in the 1890s, so much so that by the early 1900s the national supply dwindled due to overharvesting.

The first Christmas tree farm was started in 1901, located in New Jersey. In 2012, the last year for which data are available,1 there were a total of 15,494 Christmas tree farms in the United States, down from 17,367 in 2007.

In 2015, 25.9 million real Christmas trees and 12.5 million artificial Christmas trees were sold. Most people who bought real trees bought them from choose and harvest farms, followed by chain stores and nonprofit groups. On average, a real Christmas tree cost $50.82 in 2015, up from $36.50 in 2008. Today’s market sizes show the total amount people spent on Christmas trees in the United States in 2015.

1 2017 data is currently being compiled for the Census of Agriculture by the United States Department of Agriculture. The data will be published starting in February 2019.

Geographic reference: United States
Year: 2015
Market size: (Real trees) $1.32 billion
Market size: (Artificial trees) $854 million
Sources: “Consumer Survey Results,” National Christmas Tree Association, 2017 available online here; “Table 35. Cut Christmas Trees: 2012 and 2007,” 2012 Census of Agriculture, USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service, May 2, 2014 available online here; “History of Christmas Trees,” History.com, 2009 available online here; “History of Christmas Trees,” National Christmas Tree Association, 2017 available online here; “O Christmas Tree Version 8,” The Hymns and Carols of Christmas available online here; “O Tannenbaum,” Wikipedia, September 25, 2017 available online here.
Audio source: Modified from Kevin MacLeod, “Oh, Christmas Tree Length: 3 minutes 58 seconds,” available online from Wikimedia Commons here. Originally available online here from http://www.incomptech.com/m/c/royal-free/holiday.html. License: CC-BY 2.0.

Haunted Houses


Halloween is no longer a one day affair and haunted houses aren’t just for kids anymore. Many haunted houses are Hollywood-style productions with animatronics, realistic special effects, and actors in professional makeup. Haunted houses of the past were often run by neighborhood organizations as a way to do a bit of fundraising. Today, many are straightforward profit making operations.

Some operators of haunted houses combine them with rock concerts, mud runs, and paintball battles. Others combine multiple sets with corn mazes and hayrides. The haunted house experience has become an evening’s entertainment for many. More than 31 million people are expected to visit haunted houses in 2013. Worldwide there are around 2,500 haunted house attractions, the vast majority in the United States.

Today’s market size is the estimated total sales generated by haunted houses in 2013 (dare we say, by the haunted house industry?). Now that is scary….

Happy Halloween

Geographic reference: World
Year: 2013
Market size: $300 million… still a fraction of the estimated $7 billion that will be spent on Halloween related items and activities in the United States this year!
Source: Martha C. White, “It’s Aliiiive! Haunted-House Industry Scares Up Big Money,” NBC News, October 6, 2013, available online here.
Original source: National Retail Federation
Posted on October 31, 2013

Christmas Decorations

Our last post looked at Christmas trees and it got us to thinking about all the decorations that go on those trees as well as on buildings, in buildings, and all over the place. Thus, today’s market size post is an estimate of the total spent on Christmas decorations in the United States last year. As the source explains, the 2011 figure was 8% above that spent the prior year.

Geographic reference: United States
Year: 2011
Market size: $6 billion
Source: Joe Mont, “$6 Billion for Christmas Lights?” MSN Money, December 12, 2011, available online here.
Original source: National Retail Federation and BIG Research.
Posted on December 19, 2012

Christmas Tree Farming

The sale of natural trees for use as Christmas trees has been on the decline in the United States for some time. Most likely, the decline in numbers of trees sold annually has more to do with the rise in the use of artificial trees than to an overall decline in households and establishments decorating trees for the season. In 2009, Christmas tree production in the United States was down 60% from its pace just seven years earlier, in 2002 (a U.S. Economic Census year) when 20.8 million trees were grown for sale.

Today’s market size is the number of Christmas trees grown for sale in the United States in 2009 and their approximate value that year.

Geographic reference: United States
Year: 2009
Market size: 12.9 million trees valued at $248.9 million.
Source: Dan Burden and J.S. Isaacs, “Christmas Tree Profile,” AgMRC, March 2012, available online here.
Original source: Agricultural Marketing Resource Center, Census of Horticultural Specialties, USDA and the National Christmas Tree Association.
Posted on December 17, 2012

Valentine’s Day as a Market

Based on a survey conducted for the National Retail Federation, spending on Valentine’s Day is expected to be up in 2011 after two down years in 2009 and 2010. For all those in the business of selling flowers, cards, chocolates, champagne, footie pajamas, and romantic dinners out, here’s hoping the forecast is correct!

Geographic reference: United States
Year: 2005 and 2011 forecast
Market size: $13.19 and $15.7 billion respectively.
Source: “Men to Pay High Price for Love on Valentine’s Day,” an NRF press release from January 31, 2006, available online here. The estimate for 2011 is from the same source, 2011 Valentine’s Day Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, the press release for which is available here.
Original source: National Retail Federation and BIGresearch.

Christmas Trees

For our last market size posting before Christmas, later this week, we thought we’d present some figures on the industry involved in growing all those Christmas trees we decorate this time of year. The market sizes below are the number of trees harvested from Christmas tree farms in 2002 and 2007, a period over which we see a decline in numbers.
Tree Farm

Geographic reference: United States
Year: 2002 and 2007
Market size: 20.8 million and 17.4 million trees respectively
Source: “USDA Census of Agriculture,” update, National Christmas Tree Association, available here. The image of trees being loaded on a truck is from the Pure Michigan website, available here.
Original source: U.S. Department of Agriculture