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 flavored 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 . Seeds were discovered as early as 6,000 years ago along most of North and South American . 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 . 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 Thanksgiving 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. Pumpkin Spice was in this batch. Despite the popularity of the drink today, the flavor barely made it the market . It received only average ratings, and the company took a gamble by putting it on the market . A gamble that paid off. Today the Pumpkin Spice Latte is the company’s most profitable seasonal flavor . 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 .
Starbucks Creates an Icon
Now due to marketing, pumpkin spice, and especially the Pumpkin Spice Latte has become an icon to Fall. Shelving 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.
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Fleisher, Lisa. “Pumpkin Spice Latte, the Drink That Almost Wasn’t.” Corporate Intelligence. The Wall Street Journal, 30 Aug. 2013. Web. 03 Nov. 2015. <http://blogs.wsj.com/corporate-intelligence/2013/08/30/pumpkin-spice-latte-the-drink-that-almost-wasnt/>.
Maynard, Micheline. “How Starbucks Turned Pumpkin Spice Into A Marketing Bonanza.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 22 Sept. 2013. Web. 03 Nov. 2015. <http://www.forbes.com/sites/michelinemaynard/2013/09/22/how-starbucks-turned-pumpkin-spice-into-a-marketing-bonanza/>.
 Stuart, M.E., All About Pumpkins, October 2004 <http://cals.arizona.edu/yavapai/fcs/allaboutpumpkins.pdf>.
Theobald, Mary Miley. “Some Pumpkins! Halloween and Pumpkins in Colonial America.” Colonial Williamsburg Journal. The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Autumn 2009. Web. 03 Nov. 2015. <http://www.history.org/foundation/journal/autumn09/pumpkins.cfm>.
Latte Starbucks: http://www.cheeriosandlattes.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/sbucks1.jpg
Pumpkin with Cinnamon sticks: http://avidly.lareviewofbooks.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/pumpkinspice4.jpg
Pumpkin seeds: http://www.eatseed.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/pumpkin_seeds_raw_in_shell.jpg