Fall is my favorite time of the year. The changing colors of the trees, the crispness of the air, and the smell of pumpkin spice wafting across the land.
Breathe the scent in, because it’s here for a limited time.
Whoever drinks coffee or enjoys a hot beverage from their favorite coffee house knows what time of year it is. It is the time when we are surrounded by all things pumpkin spice. There’s pumpkin spice coffee, pumpkin spice cookies, pumpkin spice cereal, pumpkin spice ice cream, pumpkin spice peanut butter, pumpkin spice gum, pumpkin spice water…
Ok, that last one I made up. I think.
There’s nothing incredible pumpkin spice. There isn’t even any pumpkin in the spice mixture — it’s called pumpkin spice because these are the primary spices you use in pumpkin pie. It’s a combination of spices (mainly cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and sometimes allspice if you’re feeling frisky) that has been used in pumpkin pie recipes since the 1890s.
So here’s my question of the day: When did a spice mixture that’s been around since the 19th century become the IT flavor of the season? Who can I blame for all this pumpkin spice mania?
Let’s take a trip backward, shall we?
In an attempt to expand on its success with seasonal drinks, Starbucks introduced the Pumpkin Spice Latte in the fall of 2003. At first, the coffee drink received less than stellar reviews — more of a “meh” than an “OMG.” But the Starbucks product gurus saw a glimmer of something great in the drink. They went back to the drawing board and when they reintroduced the drink in Vancouver and Washington, DC, sales for the drink exceeded expectations. “Within the first week of the market test, we knew we had a winner,” Peter Dukes, one of the drink’s creators, said. PSL rolled out nationwide the next year.
Nowadays, PSL is a crucial component to the Starbucks’ success. Not only is the drink the most popular seasonal beverage of all time for Starbucks, but September is the fourth or fifth busiest month for the coffee chain (December is number one thanks to exhausted holiday shoppers). And when PSL disappears in January, Starbucks sales fall drastically.
And people love it. I mean LOVE IT. In the first decade of its existence, more than 200 million lattes were sold in the United States. There’s an official Twitter account dedicated to all things Pumpkin Spice Latte. There are countless memes, social media posts, blog articles, and Instagram photos dedicated to PSL.
And of course, when something is this popular, there are always haters who are just as vocal as the lovers. Pumpkin Spice Lattes have become synonymous with Millennials and anyone who looks down at their noses at the next generation are quick to label those who love the drink as basic.
As always, when something this successful hits, there are copycats everywhere trying to capitalize on the success. And that’s why we are living in the Land of Pumpkin Spice right now.
But why the success? Sure, the drink may be tasty, but is it worthy of all this hype? Maybe not, but what does drive the pumpkin spice’s success is the availability of it. You can only have it for “a limited time only.”
We all know all too well of the limited time offer. According to Time, the limited time offer is used as a way to generate excitement and interest in a product that you can’t keep on the shelf year round. McDonald’s is a particular master of this technique — just look at the Shamrock Shake and the McRib. The consumer is essentially tricked into believing that he/she needs this product or else you’ll miss out on something wonderful.
But be careful, a limited time offer food product is not necessarily a good thing. According to restaurant analysts, offering something for a limited time allows restaurants to get around new laws that require calorie counts to be listed on the menus. So that Pumpkin Spice Latte you’re downing could be up to 420 calories. For a limited time.
I think I’ll stick with my peppermint tea, thanks.
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