Pumpkin Spice Latte

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A grande iced Pumpkin Spice Latte, sold by Starbucks

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. The beverage is most commonly associated with Starbucks, which first offered the drink in 2003, and the season of fall.[1] The popular flavor has inspired a wide range of product variations that appear on a seasonal basis.[2]


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. Starbucks' director of espresso Americas, Peter 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.[3]

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."[4][3] 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.[3] 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.[5][6]

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.[7]


In 2015, Starbucks reformulated the flavor to include actual pumpkin and to remove artificial coloring.[8] 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."[9]

Sales and marketing[edit]

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.[10][11]

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."[12]

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. 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.[4]

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."[13] 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.[10]

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.[14][15] 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.[16] Forbes estimated the beverage accounted for $100 million in revenue for Starbucks in 2015.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "More Than 200 Million Sold: Fans Celebrate the Return of the Original Pumpkin Spice Latte at Starbucks". www.businesswire.com. September 3, 2013. Retrieved October 4, 2021.
  2. ^ Franks, Sarah (August 21, 2019). "Starbucks launches Pumpkin Spice Latte earlier than ever". dayton-daily-news. Retrieved August 27, 2021.
  3. ^ a b c Chou, Jessica (October 28, 2013). "History of the Pumpkin Spice Latte". The Daily Meal. Retrieved October 6, 2014.
  4. ^ a b Fieisher, Lisa (August 30, 2013). "Pumpkin Spice Latte, the Drink That Almost Wasn't". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved October 6, 2014.
  5. ^ D'Costa, Krystal (September 20, 2017). "The Rise of Pumpkin Spice". Scientific American. Retrieved September 12, 2018.
  6. ^ Popomaronis, Tom (September 8, 2017). "The World Has An Obsession With Pumpkin Spice (And Businesses Know It)". Forbes.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ Giammona, Craig. "Starbucks Pulls Artificial Coloring From Pumpkin Spice Latte". Bloomberg News. Retrieved October 27, 2015.
  9. ^ Shelke, Kantha (February 2, 2016). "Pumpkin Spice 101". Institute of Food Technologists. Retrieved August 27, 2021.
  10. ^ a b Maynard, Micheline (September 22, 2013). "How Starbucks Turned Pumpkin Spice Into A Marketing Bonanza". Forbes. Retrieved October 6, 2014.
  11. ^ "More than 200 Million Sold: Fans Celebrate the Return of the Original Pumpkin Spice Latte at Starbucks". starbucks.com (Press release). September 2, 2013.
  12. ^ Donston-Miller, Debra (December 26, 2013). "The Branding Magic Behind Pumpkin Spice Lattes". Forbes. Retrieved October 6, 2014.
  13. ^ Grant, Kelli B. (September 8, 2013). "Starbucks Latte Dries Early Pumpkin Foods Craze". CNBC. Retrieved October 6, 2014.
  14. ^ "Pumpkin Spice Chai Tea Latte". Starbucks Coffee Company.
  15. ^ "New Drinks at Starbucks: Fall 2017". What's New at Starbucks This Fall. Starbucks. Retrieved September 28, 2017.
  16. ^ Lucas, Amelia (August 26, 2019). "Starbucks is introducing its first new pumpkin coffee beverage since the pumpkin spice latte". CNBC. Retrieved September 9, 2019.
  17. ^ O'Connor, Clare (November 10, 2015). "The Pumpkin Spice Economy: How Starbucks Lattes Fueled A $500 Million Craze". Forbes. Retrieved September 9, 2019.

External links[edit]