We May Have Reached Peak Pumpkin Spice
Thirteen years ago, Starbucks market tested what would go on to be an enduring seasonal favorite, and ultimately a pop cultural food trend that rivals… actually I can’t think of a food trend that rivals IT. It’s Pumpkin Spice. Starbucks weren’t necessarily the inventors of the pumpkin spice as a concept, but the genesis of the now wildly popular flavoring can be traced to the global coffee chain.
Despite it’s social media presence, it is fascinating to note that the flavor rose initially in a pre-social media world. There was no Facebook or Twitter, even MySpace was barely a thing at the time, having been launched in August of 2003, with the Pumpkin Spice Latte first market tested in September of 2003. The PSL (as it will henceforth be referred to… as? yeah, as) was developed to further capitalize on seasonal beverages, as Starbucks’s Christmas drinks, like Eggnog and Peppermint, had proved widely popular.
Three years later is when the magic happened. It was a perfect storm of marketing that no one could have predicted or really planned. Facebook and Twitter were rising among college kids, and Starbucks started rolling out locations directly on college campuses, all of this happening from 2005-2007. You had direct access to the PSL, and direct access to telling everyone about the PSL.
And for what it’s worth, the PSL isn’t bad. It’s tasty, feels good and seasonal and gets you going in the morning. I’ve been drinking pumpkin beers since I turned 21 in 2006 and not a moment sooner if my parents ask. So I definitely get the appeal of not only seasonal foods and beverages, but also pumpkin specifically. It’s good. Everybody likes pumpkin pie! Why not pumpkin pie in coffee or beer form?
And that’s what leads us to today. Now we’ve reached peak Pumpkin Spice. It’s bad enough that everyone from M&Ms to Cheerios to “Food Should Taste Good” brand tortilla chips are jumping on the Pumpkin Spice bandwagon. But the band wagon is no longer a wagon… it’s a ship, and the HMS Pumpkin Spice is now piloted by Captain Morgan himself.
I get it. I really do. Like I said, the PSL is good. But… no. Leave the rum out of this. This is a flavor portmanteau I can’t in good conscience condone. I say that as a lover of rum, and a… well, I like pumpkin spice. Don’t really love it, don’t really hate it. We’re friends, we get along. I’d probably help pumpkin spice move, but only if I didn’t already have plans.