Love it or hate it, pumpkin spice has become a fall staple thanks to the success of Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte.
Starbucks added the Pumpkin Spice Cold Brew to their collection of pumpkin spice drinks on August 27. This is the first pumpkin spice drink to be added to the menu since 2003! While this drink may be new to Starbucks, it is certainly not the latest pumpkin spice flavored food item to hit the market. Take a trip to your local supermarket this fall and you will likely see at least one pumpkin spice flavored product. There’s pumpkin spice coffee, creamer, muffins, cookies, cereal, yogurt, potato chips, Pop Tarts, beer, vodka, protein powder and more.
How did this flavor become an autumn staple, why do people love it so much and what exactly is pumpkin spice anyways?
The Pumpkin Spice Latte was created in the Starbucks research and development lab in 2002 in response to a request from Starbucks corporate to create a uniquely autumn beverage. The PSL launched in 2003 as a seasonal drink and quickly became—and still is—a top seller.
The drink itself is a combination of pumpkin pie spices (a mix of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and allspice),espresso and pumpkin flavor. This seems like an odd flavor for an espresso-based drink, but the smell and taste of cinnamon, cloves and pumpkin makes someone think of fall. This “feeling of fall” is what many people attribute to the drink’s success. The combination of smells and flavors gives people a sense of nostalgia for the season; it makes people think of falling leaves on a cool day, pumpkins, Halloween and Thanksgiving.
Another reason for the drink’s success is it’s seasonality. The limited nature of the drink makes people want to get it while they can out of fear of missing it, and makes people long for it while it’s unavailable.
With everything that is successful, there are bound to be copycats. Companies have seized on the chance to replicate the success of the PSL by releasing their own limited runs of pumpkin-inspired products, and boy there are a lot of them.
Social media has also played a role in making the flavor as popular as it is. When Pumpkin Spice Latte season starts and people see the drink plastered all over their feeds, it makes them want to go out and have one too. (before it’s too late). This is an example of social conformity, which is the tendency for people to do something everyone else is doing to feel included. This desire for people to be in on the trend has certainly boosted the popularity and sales of the Pumpkin Spice Latte and popularized the flavor of “pumpkin spice.”
Next time you’re walking down the aisles of a grocery store, keep a count of how many pumpkin spice products you see.
Let us know what your favorite pumpkin spice product is in the comments.