The Secret Genius of Pumpkin Spice Market

Michael Beausoleil
Published in
5 min readSep 28, 2021

On Wednesday, September 22nd, we officially entered autumn of 2021. Everyone has their favorite seasonal traditions, but it seems all restaurants celebrate in the same way: pumpkin spice. While some people turn their noses at the flavor, there seems to be just as many people who are crazy for pumpkin spice.

It’s easy to understand why some people would be annoyed by “pumpkin spice season.” It was once considered an indication of fall’s arrival, but recent years have started earlier and earlier. Now, you can get a pumpkin spice latte (PSL) before students go back to school.

Even though the flavor is polarizing, it seems like it has to be profitable. While many people associate the PSL with Starbucks, restaurants and retailers have fully leaned into the craze. Due to the number of pumpkin-flavored treats available in the second-half of the calendar year, it would be logical to assume it’s culinary gold. Someone needs to be making money from this sensation, and there has to be a reason it gets promoted so heavily each year.

Starbucks: Making America Pumpkin Spice

The history of pumpkin spice fever goes back to 2003 when Starbucks first introduced the PSL. Like all good American traditions, the roots belong in a major franchise who just wanted to increase profits. Starbucks had already introduced seasonal winter drinks, and they wanted to create a drink that would generate attention in the fall.

via Starbucks

In fact, the PSL didn’t even contain pumpkin until 2015. It just used spices commonly added to pumpkin pies. Even after pumpkin purée was added to the recipe, it was just a formality. There’s only a small amount, and it was likely added due to criticism.

Regardless of controversies, Starbucks made nearly $100 millions selling PSLs in 2015. By 2019, Starbucks had sold nearly 425 million PSLs worldwide, a number that has undoubtedly climbed since then. While Starbucks knows they struck gold with their pumpkin flavoring, they also acknowledge shifts in consumer trends. More recently, customers have shown a preference for iced drinks rather than hot beverages. So, their pumpkin offerings have expanded beyond PSLs. Now, you can ice your latte or add some pumpkin foam to your cold brew. It makes sense, because it’s…

Michael Beausoleil
Writer for

User Analytics | Digital & Brand Marketing | Productivity … hoping to explore topics that interest me and find others with similar passions