It happens every year: Sometime between the back to school promotions and the Halloween push, ordinary products suddenly become infused with pumpkin spice. The selection of pumpkin spice items becomes more varied — and let’s say…creative — every fall. During a recent CVS run I spotted pumpkin-flavored cough drops, chewing gum and sparkling water. Curious to see what other ubiquitous pumpkin products were out there, I put my eight year old on the case. She pointed out a variety of pumpkin spice items including: cookies, cereal, marshmallows, tortilla chips, bagels, peanut butter, cream cheese, protein powder, fettuccini, almonds and body wash.
At Trader Joe’s, the amount of pumpkin products has steadily increased since the grocery chain began offering them in the mid-1990s, according to a company spokesperson. This year, T.J.'s shelves will be stocked with more than 70 pumpkin items, up from around 60 items in 2015.
When did all of this pumpkin spice madness begin? The likely answer is 2003 when Starbucks debuted the pumpkin spice latte in 100 stores.
The famed PSL was originally conceived of by product manager Peter Dukes, a former basketball player with a BA in Economics and an MBA from Stanford. Dukes first came to Starbucks in 2001, and in 2003 he was asked to create a new branded espresso drink for the fall. He came up with a pumpkin pie-inspired latte. The rest is history.
"Pumpkin Spice Latte is the most popular seasonal drink we’ve ever had with over 350 million cups sold in the U.S. alone since its debut," Starbucks spokesperson Maggie Jantzen said. "[We] know that for many, it signals the start of the Fall season."
Forbes estimated the company earned around $100 million in revenue from the drink alone last fall. It has a heavy social media presence, and its own verified Twitter account, @TheRealPSL.
To commemorate his part in the momentous success of the drink, Dukes was included in a mural near the Starbucks HQ. He's right alongside a pumpkin spice latte cup with a halo and a massive pumpkin.
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