Pumpkin spice revolutionizes the season


Art by Marion Krowczyk

Autumn is in the air and so is an iconic, fresh, slightly sweet scent: pumpkin spice. For years, the fall flavor has been a favorite amongst many, but how exactly did this trend start, and is the spice still a strong sensation today?
This seemingly trendy combination of spices has actually been around for decades. Originally a combination of different flavors such as nutmeg, cloves, cardamom, ginger and cinnamon, its first labeling as pumpkin spice occurred in 1936, when it was featured in a recipe for Thanksgiving spice cakes by The Chicagoist. Though such spices and recipes were popular back then, it was not until the mid to late 1960s when major marketing companies, such as McCormick, began to sell prepackaged versions of the mix in grocery stores that it began to skyrocket in national fashionability.
However, arguably the most well-known modern pumpkin spice recipe comes from popular coffee chain Starbucks’ festive lattes. They began selling pumpkin spice lattes in the fall of 2003, inspired by the success of their Christmas seasonal drinks, such as the Peppermint Mocha, from the previous winter. As predicted, the lattes were a smashing hit with consumers everywhere, and they continued to sell as a seasonal favorite ever since. This led to several companies including Dunkin’ Donuts, Dairy Queen, Culver’s, and McDonald’s hopping onto the seasonal bandwagon and creating new forms of their own pumpkin flavored desserts, drinks, and other menu items.
Even though nearly two decades have passed since its initial release, the pumpkin spice latte remains as popular as ever. As of 2020, over 500 million pumpkin spice lattes have been sold worldwide, and sales continue to increase annually. This is likely because of the limited time it is available, the symbolism it presents as the beginning of a new season, and the pumpkin flavor being a source of nostalgia for many, reopening old, joyful memories of past holidays with loved ones. The gentle, reminiscent feeling of home and togetherness that comes with the pumpkin spice is what makes it so enjoyable, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic has made most of the recent family holidays a socially distant affair. Starbucks, who began releasing the 2020 version of the drink earlier than ever before, likely knew about this and used the drink to give their customers a boost in morale. Whatever the case may be, the numbers don’t lie, and these popular drinks will likely retain their popularity for a long time.
However, lattes and other coffees are not the only well-liked pumpkin products that annually appear in the fall. Even those who aren’t the most enthusiastic coffee fans can find some ways to enjoy the seasonal spice flavors.
“I don’t really like the drinks,” junior Gen Derwin says, “but I do like a lot of the foods with that flavor, especially pumpkin spice wafer cookies.”
From oatmeal to pretzels, there’s something for everyone to enjoy during the autumn season, regardless of personal tastes. As of today, there are a total of over 65 different products, each advertising the flavor of pumpkin spice. Brands such as Greenies and Bocce’s Bakery have even been experimenting with recipes for pumpkin spice flavored dog treats!
The taste may not be universally loved by everyone, but for those who do love the flavor, it has become as essential to fall as colorful fallen leaves and carven Jack-o’-lanterns.
Even with all these different products making their version of the flavor unique, the reason for their collective and continuous popularity is extremely clear: pumpkin spice has become a staple in autumn, even perhaps American culture, and will remain so for many years to come.