Pumpkin Spice and Everything Nice

Fifteen years ago, Starbucks poured joy down the throats of millions of consumers as they rolled out the Pumpkin Spice Latte, commonly trending as PSL. In 2003, a group of Starbucks executives met to brainstorm ideas for a new fall drink. A few ideas surfaced surrounding the category of “fall drinks,” but the employees  ultimately felt that the Pumpkin Spice Latte best rolled off the tongue.

Since 2003, Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte has skyrocketed beyond their original latte in sales. Forbes estimates that this year Starbucks will make around $100 million in revenue from the beloved PSL. Furthermore, it was Starbucks that created the pumpkin spice industry, which raked in around $500 million in 2015. I cannot help but wonder, will this trend ever end?

Illustration by Lo Wall

Pumpkin spice is not a new discovery. The classic “pumpkin spice” consists of a few of the ingredients in a pumpkin pie filling: pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and ginger. Pumpkin pie can be found in history books about Thanksgiving dinners dating back to the middle of the 19th century. So, it is not that the pumpkin spice itself is anything new. 

However, it was not until 2003 that Starbucks decided to put a modern twist on it with its latte. Since then, the trending flavor has drastically surpassed coffee. Pumpkin spice Cheerios, pumpkin spice Oreos, pumpkin spice Greenies dog treats, and even pumpkin spice chile seasoning and yogurts are sold commercially in grocery stores, all adding to the $500 million industry. 

Though food fads often take a downward trend as time passes, it does not seem like pumpkin spice will ever die. Since its inception in 2003, the pumpkin spice industry has not stopped growing.

Forbes performed a study with a year-by-year comparison of the revenue brought in by various pumpkin-spice- flavored products. It showed that more money has been brought in with pumpkin spice fillings, beers, coffees, creamers, baking mixes, ice creams, and all other pumpkin-spice-flavored products as we moved through 2012, 2013, and 2014. As a result, food companies continue to create pumpkin spice products, including Mrs. Meyers surface cleaner, pumpkin spice Werther’s, and pumpkin spice RXBars. 

Considering the upward trend of pumpkin spice products, I have come to the conclusion that pumpkin spice will never die. Starbucks has magically, and seemingly unintentionally, struck gold with their PSL. I do not think it is the same as food trends in the past or present like cauliflower crust, zoodles, or kombucha; pumpkin spice is not a product people simply enjoy for health benefits or popular status. Pumpkin spice is somehow able to encapsulate the entire season of fall. When people bite into an oh-so-tasty pumpkin-spice-flavored Milano or Siggi’s yogurt, they feel fall. It’s become the eggnog of the season.

Despite the fact that many people will call out the girl in her scarf, mittens, and  headband holding a PSL as “basic,” the pumpkin spice latte continues to thrive. It has its own verified Twitter page, 

@TheRealPSL. Starbucks has morphed a delicious pie taste into a multi-million dollar industry that I believe may be around forever. 

Perhaps, one day, we will have children, and they will drink a Pumpkin Spice Latte. As the liquid sugar travels down their throat, we can tell them, “Hey, I was alive when the PSL was first introduced.” Our young child will then look at us with their awe-filled eyes as if we are as old as the dinosaurs. 

Caroline Williams

Caroline Williams

Caroline Williams

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