Pumpkin Spice Latte

The Pumpkin Spice Latte is a coffee drink made with a mix of traditional autumn spice flavors (cinnamon, nutmeg and clove), steamed milk, espresso, and often sugar, topped with whipped cream and pumpkin pie spice. Since 2015, it has also often contained a small amount of pumpkin puree. The drink is offered by Starbucks and many other cafés on a seasonal basis, usually available from late August through January.


Starbucks started developing the Pumpkin Spice Latte in January 2003 following the successful introduction of winter seasonal drinks such as the Peppermint Mocha and Eggnog Latte. According to Peter Dukes, Starbucks' director of Espresso Americas, developers tested ten products with consumers, with the Pumpkin Spice Latte coming out in the middle of the group after chocolate and caramel flavors. Dukes said that "developers realized there was something special around the pumpkin flavor, especially since there wasn't anything around pumpkin at the time". The company experimented with different combinations and ratios of pumpkin to spice, ultimately deciding on a recipe with no pumpkin in it.[1]

In fall of 2003, the final recipe was tested in Vancouver and Washington, D.C. Sales of the drink exceeded the company's expectations: Dukes said "we couldn't keep up initially... we had to expedite inventory to the stores."[2][1] The product went on sale in all U.S. Starbucks stores the following year.

The company said that Pumpkin Spice Latte was Starbucks' most popular seasonal beverage, with more than 200 million sold between its 2003 introduction and 2015.[1] The beverage started a trend of pumpkin spice products, such as candles and air fresheners, as well as for foods as diverse as donuts, breakfast cereals, cough drops, and pasta sauce.[3][4]

In August 2015, Starbucks changed the recipe to include pumpkin and remove artificial colors. The ingredients announced included a "pumpkin pie flavored syrup" made with sugar, condensed skim milk, pumpkin puree, coloring and preservative.[5]


In 2014, Vani Hari, the controversial pseudoscience[6] blogger better known as "Food Babe", voiced concerns about the ingredients used in Starbucks' Pumpkin Spice Latte.[7] Hari's widely shared article "You'll Never Guess What's in a Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte (Hint: You Won't Be Happy)" focused on the use of Class IV caramel coloring (E 150d),[7] which contains low levels of 4-MEI, a potential carcinogen.[8] Caramel coloring is generally recognized as safe by the Food and Drug Administration; human exposure to 4-MEI at normal levels is considered safe by the FDA,[7][9] the European Food Safety Authority,[10] and Health Canada.[11]

Prior to the 2015 introduction of pumpkin puree, Hari had also raised concerns over the absence of pumpkin as an ingredient in the drink. Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) spokesperson Kantha Shelke argued that the drink was supposed to evoke the spices used in pumpkin pie, not the taste of pumpkin itself.[12][13]

Hari and others also criticized the amount of sugar in the product. Journalist Mandy Oaklander reported in Time magazine that one serving of Starbucks' pumpkin sauce contained 8 grams (0.28 oz) of sugar. A "grande" Pumpkin Spice Latte, containing three servings of syrup, had 49 g (1.7 oz) sugar, 24 g (0.85 oz) of which were from the Pumpkin Spice flavoring.[12] A 16 US fl oz (470 ml) pumpkin spice latte contains 380 calories (1,600 kJ).[14] The Food and Drug Administration's Reference Daily Intake recommends limiting consumption of added sugar to at most 50 g (1.8 oz) per day.[15][16]

In 2015, Starbucks reformulated the flavor to include actual pumpkin and to remove artificial coloring.[17] In an IFT publication, Shelke said that the change was imperceptible and served only to "appease those who wanted to see real pumpkin on the list of ingredients."[13]

Sales and marketingEdit

Starbucks sold more than 200 million Pumpkin Spice Lattes between its launch and 2013, generating revenue at a rate of at least $80 million a year in some seasons, and outselling products such as the Eggnog Latte and the Peppermint Mocha.[18][19]

In a 2013 article published in Forbes magazine, Debra Donston-Miller wrote that "products that are available only for a limited time have a kind of built-in marketing that can grow in impact over time."[20] However, marketing experts at Mottis said in 2014 that the success of the Pumpkin Spice Latte could be attributed to Starbucks' marketing campaigns.[21]

Starbucks has worked to market to their target market of men and women ages 25 to 40, using contemporary designs and messaging. Starbucks has written that their target market represents the demographics using social media most heavily, including on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.[21] In 2013, the company added a gaming element to the drink's arrival, allowing customers to "unlock" the drink at Starbucks stores nearby by ordering the drink with a code before its official sale date.[2] Between August 2012 and January 2014, there were over 29,000 tweets with the hash tag "#pumpkinspice",[22] and in a single fall day use of the PSL hash tag exceeded 12 million.[citation needed]

Since the introduction of the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte, other companies have created Pumpkin Spice inspired products. According to Datassential Menu Trends, restaurants' pumpkin-inspired limited-time offers were up 234 percent from 2008 to 2012, while overall limited-time menu offers grew by 143 percent over the same period."[23] These items include pumpkin M&M's, Dunkin' Donuts pumpkin flavored coffee K-packs, and pumpkin flavored whiskey. Companies have also manufactured pumpkin spice lotion, shampoo, and candles.[18]

The Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte can also be made iced or as a Frappuccino upon request at a Starbucks store. In Fall of 2017 the company added a Chai variety of the drink called the Pumpkin Spice Chai Latte.[24][25] Additionally, Starbucks also seasonally offers pumpkin spice-flavored instant coffee pouches.

According to CNBC, the Pumpkin Spice Latte is Starbucks' most popular seasonal drink, with worldwide sales of around 424 million.[26] Forbes estimated the beverage accounted for $100 million in revenue for Starbucks in 2015.[27]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c Chou, Jessica (October 28, 2013). "History of the Pumpkin Spice Latte". The Daily Meal. Retrieved October 6, 2014.
  2. ^ a b Fieisher, Lisa (August 30, 2013). "Pumpkin Spice Latte, the Drink That Almost Wasn't". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved October 6, 2014.
  3. ^ D'Costa, Krystal (September 20, 2017). "The Rise of Pumpkin Spice". Scientific American. Retrieved September 12, 2018.
  4. ^ Popomaronis, Tom (September 8, 2017). "The World Has An Obsession With Pumpkin Spice (And Businesses Know It)". Forbes.
  5. ^ Dukes, Peter (August 17, 2015). "Big News for the Beloved Pumpkin Spice Latte". My Starbucks Idea. Starbucks Corporation. Archived from the original on August 26, 2015. Via Leah Durain (September 8, 2015). "Starbucks debuts new Pumpkin Spice Latte ingredients list". 12 News. Archived from the original on September 24, 2015.
  6. ^ Belluz, Julia (April 7, 2015). "Why the "Food Babe" enrages scientists". Vox.com. Vox Media.
  7. ^ a b c Engel, Meredith (September 18, 2014). "Battle Brews over Ingredients in Starbucks' Pumpkin Spice Lattes". Daily News (New York). New York. Retrieved October 6, 2014.
  8. ^ World Health Organization (1975) Toxicological evaluation of some food colours, enzymes, flavour enhancers, thickening agents, and certain food additives. Accessed on 2011-01-11.
  9. ^ "Questions & Answers on Caramel Coloring and 4-MEI". FDA.gov. Food and Drug Administration. November 5, 2014. Retrieved December 11, 2015. Based on the available information, FDA has no reason to believe that there is any immediate or short-term danger presented by 4-MEI at the levels expected in food from the use of caramel coloring.
  10. ^ "EFSA reviews safety of caramel colours". Retrieved January 8, 2015.
  11. ^ "Coke changes recipe; Pepsi still contains cancer-causing chemical, U.S. watchdog says". July 5, 2013. Retrieved January 8, 2015.
  12. ^ a b Oaklander, Mandy (September 3, 2014). "In Defense of the Pumpkin Spice Latte". Time. Retrieved September 26, 2016.
  13. ^ a b Shelke, Kantha. "Pumpkin Spice 101". Institute of Food Technologists. Retrieved October 27, 2015.
  14. ^ "Pumpkin Spice Lattee". Starbucks.com. Starbucks Coffee Company. Retrieved February 5, 2017.
  15. ^ "Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs)" (PDF). Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine, National Academies. November 30, 2010. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 11, 2018. Retrieved March 11, 2018. A complete document containing the four tables listed [at Dietary Reference Intakes Tables and Application: Health and Medicine Division].
  16. ^ "Dietary Reference Intakes Tables and Application : Health and Medicine Division". nationalacademies.org. Retrieved March 11, 2018.
  17. ^ Giammona, Craig. "Starbucks Pulls Artificial Coloring From Pumpkin Spice Latte". Bloomberg News. Retrieved October 27, 2015.
  18. ^ a b Maynard, Micheline (September 22, 2013). "How Starbucks Turned Pumpkin Spice Into A Marketing Bonanza". Forbes. Retrieved October 6, 2014.
  19. ^ "More than 200 Million Sold: Fans Celebrate the Return of the Original Pumpkin Spice Latte at Starbucks". Regional Business News, EBSCOhost. 2013.
  20. ^ "The Branding Magic Behind Pumpkin Spice Lattes". Forbes. December 26, 2013. Retrieved October 6, 2014.
  21. ^ a b Bethany. "One Pumpkin Spice Latte with a Side of Marketing Success Please". Mottis. Retrieved October 6, 2014.
  22. ^ "Pumpkin Spice Latte". Starbucks Corporation. February 16, 2014. Archived from the original on February 16, 2014. There have been over 29,000 tweets that have featured the hash tag: #pumpkinspice since August of 2012?CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  23. ^ Grant, Kelli B. (September 8, 2013). "Starbucks Latte Dries Early Pumpkin Foods Craze". CNBC. Retrieved October 6, 2014.
  24. ^ "Pumpkin Spice Chai Tea Latte". Starbucks Coffee Company.
  25. ^ "New Drinks at Starbucks: Fall 2017". What's New at Starbucks This Fall. Starbucks. Retrieved September 28, 2017.
  26. ^ Lucas, Amelia (August 26, 2019). "Starbucks is introducing its first new pumpkin coffee beverage since the pumpkin spice latte". CNBC. Retrieved September 9, 2019.
  27. ^ O'Connor, Clare (November 10, 2015). "The Pumpkin Spice Economy: How Starbucks Lattes Fueled A $500 Million Craze". Forbes. Retrieved September 9, 2019.

External linksEdit