Pumpkin Spice Latte
The Pumpkin Spice Latte is a coffee drink made with a mix of traditional fall 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 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.
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." 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. 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.
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.
In 2014, Vani Hari, the controversial pseudoscience blogger better known as "Food Babe", voiced concerns about the ingredients used in Starbucks' Pumpkin Spice Latte. 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), which contains low levels of 4-MEI, a potential carcinogen. 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, the European Food Safety Authority, and Health Canada.
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.
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. A 16 US fl oz (470 ml) pumpkin spice latte contains 380 calories (1,600 kJ). 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.
In 2015, Starbucks reformulated the flavor to include actual pumpkin and to remove artificial coloring. 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."
Sales and marketing
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.
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." However, marketing experts at Mottis said in 2014 that the success of the Pumpkin Spice Latte could be attributed to Starbucks' marketing campaigns.
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. Between August 2012 and January 2014, there were over 29,000 tweets with the hash tag "#PSL", and in a single fall day use of the PSL hash tag exceeded 12 million.[not in citation given]
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." 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.
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. Additionally, Starbucks also seasonally offers pumpkin spice-flavored instant coffee pouches.
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