How Pumpkin Spice Flavor Became Iconic To Fall

Thirteen years ago when I was only a toddler my Aunt offered me my first sip of a Pumpkin Spice Latte. Now years later as fall approaches, I see supermarkets fill with pumpkin spice flavorpumpkinswithcinamoned products, everywhere. Coffee creamers, breakfast food, even cereal. The flavor that was barely present years ago has become a staple seasonal flavor. So what led to the pumpkin spice flavored boom?


Origins of Pumpkins

Understanding how pumpkin spice came to be so popular, starts with the origins of the food it’s based off of, pumpkins. The first pumpkins seeds were found in Mexico around 7,000 years ago [4]. Seeds were discovered as early as 6,000 years ago along most of North andpumpkinseeds South American [5]. The pumpkin was an important part of the Native American and American Settler diet. In many ancient cultures, pumpkins seeds were the only parts eaten of the plant, but by the later 1700’s the flesh of the pumpkin was commonly consumed, especially by settlers and Native American, in foods such as stew, pie, and alcoholic beverages [5]. Since pumpkins are harvested in the fall, they have been a staple of the Fall season in American culture from the countries beginning.

It Starts With A Latte

Pumpkin has long been an ingredient in seasonal fall food and on Tpumpkispicehanksgiving tables, but until recently the flavor was not heavily marketed beyond traditional products like pumpkin pie. This changed with the introduction and popularity of the Pumpkin Spice Latte. Although many coffee shops now offer a seasonal pumpkin spice beverage, the popularization of the flavor is due to the coffee giant Starbucks. In 2003 Starbucks developed and tested over 20 new seasonal flavors[2]. Pumpkin Spice was in this batch. Despite the popularity of the drink today, the flavor barely made it the market [2]. It received only average ratings, and the company took a gamble by putting it on the market [2]. A gamble that paid off. Today the Pumpkin Spice Latte is the company’s most profitable seasonal flavor [3]. As other food companies realized Starbucks’ success with the flavor, they began to create pumpkin spice products of their own. This lead to the proliferation of the flavor in the seasonal food market [1].

Starbucks Creates
an Icon

Now due to marketing, pumpkin spice, and especially the Pumpkin Spice Latte has become an icon to Fall. pumpkinspiceeveryhtingShelving are stocked with flavor through a variety of products such as Pumpkin Spice Pringles, peanut butter, cereal, and lasagna. Blogs have mocked how pumpkin spice has become an obsession, sometimes taken too far by the food industry. Nonetheless, the flavor is a part of the seasonal market with no sign of leaving. When my Aunt gave me my first taste of a Pumpkin Spice Latte, I never imagined that the flavor would grow to be a huge tradition that I along with millions of others look forward to every Fall. The pumpkin spice flavor is an example of how marketing quickly and actively shapes contemporary culture. Pumpkins may have been a traditional  Fall food for thousand of years, but in only 13 years one company created a new tradition of Pumpkin Spice flavored products that is now as integrated to American culture as original pumpkin foods.


Works Cited
[1]Donston-Miller, Debra. “The Branding Magic Behind Pumpkin Spice Lattes.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 26 Dec. 2013. Web. 03 Nov. 2015. <>.
[2]Fleisher, Lisa. “Pumpkin Spice Latte, the Drink That Almost Wasn’t.” Corporate Intelligence. The Wall Street Journal, 30 Aug. 2013. Web. 03 Nov. 2015. <>.
[3]Maynard, Micheline. “How Starbucks Turned Pumpkin Spice Into A Marketing Bonanza.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 22 Sept. 2013. Web. 03 Nov. 2015. <>.
[4] Stuart, M.E., All About Pumpkins, October 2004 <>.
[5]Theobald, Mary Miley. “Some Pumpkins! Halloween and Pumpkins in Colonial America.” Colonial Williamsburg Journal. The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Autumn 2009. Web. 03 Nov. 2015. <>.

Latte Starbucks:
Pumpkin with Cinnamon sticks:
Pumpkin seeds:


5 thoughts on “How Pumpkin Spice Flavor Became Iconic To Fall

  1. Very nice! I also think that pumpkin spice flavor is a “fad” or it is what is cool to drink. Twitter/ Facebook/ etc.. have portrayed drinking pumpkin spice latte as something cool and if you drink it you’ll be cooler too.. maybe incorporate that into your post.
    Also, do you think that this pumpkin spice craze will last for a long time or fade out in a couple of years?

  2. I really enjoyed reading about this topic. It is interesting how marketing picks up on specifics crazes. It is also interesting how even though this flavor is so profitable, it is only offered in the fall. Maybe companies do this to make sure the fad doesn’t fade by making this coveted pumpkin spice a “limited time offer.” I do feel as though the historic origin of the pumpkin was not too helpful to the pumpkin spice theme. Maybe if you wanted to but a scientific spin and background about the topic, you could explain the composition of pumpkin spice (i.e. what spices are included in the secret formula). The integrated citations made your article credible and I absolutely loved the incorporation of the picture of the countless pumpkin spice products.

    • I actually read some research about how the “limited time offer” is one of the main reasons this flavor stays so popular. The theory that I read also went on to explain how other food companies picked up on this strategy to increase their profits as well.

  3. Good work Samantha! I, for what it’s worth, liked that you included the history of the pumpkin, particularly its alcoholic lineage. The pumpkin spice I typically reach for is beer, but my wife makes a mean pumpkin spice latte at home with real pumpkin. Did your aunt make hers at home or was it one of the originals from the Starbucks?

  4. I really liked the historical component! Super interesting and a good follow of your model. A lot of those products sound disgusting though, why are people getting mad over starbucks red cups when pumpkin spice lasagna exists?

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