It’s the Most Pumpkin Spiced Time of the Year

It’s Baaaaaack…

It’s Fall, y’all. How do I know? Not by the calendar, although Fall did technically start on September 22 this year. Not by the colorful leaves and a nip in the air – it’s still hot, humid and green here in the ATL. It isn’t the spooky Halloween decorations in stores and scary movies on TV, either. No, you can tell it’s Fall by the ubiquitous return of the single biggest hit of Autumn: pumpkin spice.

It’s easy to see that the availability of pumpkin spiced flavored and scented items has exploded over the years. In fact, this blog post was inspired by a casual chat about this very topic one day in the Relish studio, and everybody has an opinion – and strong ones at that.

My curiosity was piqued, and I couldn’t help myself. I kicked into full on investigative mode to discover what I could about this autumnal wonder and how people feel about the pumpkin-madness.


First, what is pumpkin spice anyway? Surprisingly the spice concoction doesn’t typically involve pumpkin at all, but the spices you would use to flavor your pumpkin pie or similar treats, including cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and ginger, and in some cases allspice and mace.

As for the craze, I think it’s safe to say that the pumpkin spice trend took off 14 years ago with the introduction of, you guessed it, the pumpkin spice Latte (PSL for you hipsters). It started in early 2003 when the Starbucks R&D team began working on a fall drink that they hoped might one day be as successful as their two winter espressos – the Eggnog Latte and Peppermint Mocha. Later that year, the PSL launched at 100 stores in the coffee giant’s Vancouver and Washington, DC test markets, with a complete US launch the following year. And what a launch it was – Starbucks is estimated to make about $100 million in revenue each fall from PSLs alone.

PSL Fun Facts:

  • One of the original ideas for the name was “Fall Harvest Latte.”
  • PSL was the original beverage code written by baristas on cups.
  • The beverage is now sold in over 50 countries and 6 continents.
  • Tweets with the #PSL average about 3,000 per day; PSL also has its own Twitter account.

What About Pumpkin Spiced Relish?

I was on a roll. And with all that history and trivia in my head, I had to know – is the Relish team for or against PSL?



Sorry Starbucks, the majority are anti-PSL. But how about pumpkin spice in other things?



A little more love for the pumpkin, generally speaking! True, 25% of us are a clear NOPE. But the rest enjoy the flavor in their pumpkin pie (60%), other baked goods (50%) and even their beer (20%)!

Is Pumpkin Spice EVERYWHERE?

In the words of Peter Dukes, the product manager who led development of the PSL, “Nobody knew back then what it would grow to be. It’s taken on a life of its own.” No kidding, and not just for Starbucks. The Pumpkin Spiced Latte inspired an entirely new market of pumpkin flavored and scented items.

My curiosity wouldn’t quit. I had to know more. A short jaunt through my local grocery store turned into a fun treasure hunt of sorts. It didn’t take long until I had a camera roll full of all things pumpkin (along with a couple of side-eye stares).

First, I found this Starbucks display. No surprise here:


But it didn’t stop there. Here’s just a small sample of all that I found:



And online, there was even more! The People’s Comprehensive Guide to All the Pumpkin Spice-Flavored Foods Out This Year lists more than 30 new pumpkin spiced products released this year alone. Then, there’s this entertaining (or for some, maybe disgusting) list: 65 Foods that have No Business being Pumpkin Spiced.

So why so much pumpkin spice? Is it the flavor alone? Is it the feeling you get knowing that your favorite autumn holidays like Halloween and Thanksgiving are just around the corner? As consumers are we simply just drawn to things that are only available for a “limited time?” Or is it just smart marketing?

Whatever the answer, whether it delights you or scares you, pumpkin spice is here to stay.

* What the Pumpkin Spice?

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