Pumpkin Spice and Everything Nice?


Olivia Janicek, Reporter

The pumpkin spice plague is in full swing, and I’m slightly infected. While it feels pathetic to say, I love pumpkin. There’s something about that flavor, that image, that just screams fall to me. Companies all over seem to agree. With October in the air, it feels as though stores are plugging pumpkin into anything they want. Pumpkin cereal? Pumpkin peanut butter? Pumpkin cough drops?! Doesn’t it feel a little excessive? Well, that’s debatable…

I believe Pumpkin Spice is one of the greatest inventions of our time. Not because of the PSL or my affinity for pumpkin-y items, rather, the power it holds over consumers. According to NPD data, just 8% of consumers purchase the drink more than three times in one PSL-fall-lifetime. Technically, it’s not all that popular. NPD also notes that roughly 72% of drinkers purchase the fall staple at least once. That’s right, about 3 out of 4 people have sipped the PSL. Starbucks never fails to flaunt their all-star drink and during fall, even produced a PSL pumpkin hatch via Facebook Live. But what makes it so special?

Milk, Pumpkin Spice sauce, brewed espresso, and whipped cream. Honestly, the PSL is not so… amazing. Plenty of local cafes and even Einsteins offer pumpkin-flavored latte. In flavor, they’re not all that different. In image, they’re drastically diverse. That said, I’d hesitate to call PSL a drink. I’d call it a brand.

Starbucks is a marketing genius. They’ve built a simple flavored latte into a vast cultural icon. Now, every September, fall-lovers rejoice for the return of the ‘life-changing’ drink and mourn it when autumn fades into winter. Like leggings, scarves, pumpkin pie, even fall leaves the PSL has stained itself into the image of the season. Even though it’s not a highly popular drink of the regulars, it’s popularity and reputation perseveres. Some tend to disagree, saying the PSL is a joke and even a cliche. They flock to Twitter, to whine about its return and it’s “basic-ness”. Unknowingly, such complainers are supporting the PSL campaign. The latte, whether it’s viewed in positive or negative light, is insanely well-known. It’s a Starbucks powerhouse; akin to that of a celebrity.

Nowadays, Starbucks isn’t the only company to jump on the pumpkin bandwagon. If you’ve ever visited Trader Joe’s, you know what I’m referring to. They sell: pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin cream cheese, pumpkin spice coffee, pumpkin waffles, pumpkin spice granola, pumpkin cereal, pumpkin butter, pumpkin biscotti, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin bagels, pumpkin rolls, pumpkin spice cookies, and pumpkin spice almond beverage. They also have canned pumpkin and actual pumpkins if you’re an old-fashioned pumpkin fan. I have to say it, I think Trader Joe’s reigns king in the pumpkin department. Or king in the pumpkin bandwagon.

Even I, a joyous pumpkin addict, must admit that all the promotions seems like a little much. How did an orange squash plant, earn a place in modern-day culture? How did its popularity erupt to that of a Kardashians?

Marketing. Advertising. The pumpkin flavor is merely a formula. Plug a food in, pull a fall-flavored fad out.

I’m guessing most of America is okay with that. Sure, the pumpkins are just a scheme to get more profits, but let’s focus on the positive. The result of the “pumpkin-formula” is a collection of delicious pumpkin treats (pumpkin cheesecake?!) to savor all fall long.