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How Did Pumpkin Spice Become The Flavor Of Fall?

20September 2021

This was originally published on Sept. 10, 2019.

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It seems like everyone is selling something pumpkin spice these days.

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According to Nielsen, sales for pumpkin-flavored products reached $488 million last season.

So, how did pumpkin spice become the flavor of fall? Good Question.

“It’s hard to say goodbye to summer,” says Megan Baumler, program director for Nutrition and Dietetics at St. Catherine University. “But, if we can latch onto something, it makes it easier to transition.”

It’s part feeling, part taste.

Research from NPD shows buyers of pumpkin-spice lattes visit those chains twice as much in the season and buy ten percent more.

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In 1934, McCormick and Company came up with pumpkin pie spice with the idea it would help people make better tasting pumpkin pies.

In 2003, Starbucks introduced its pumpkin spice latter. Since then, a spokesperson for Starbucks told USA Today the chain has sold more than 400 million PSLs.

Other companies saw that success and followed suit. Now, there are pumpkin spices in everything from dog treats to Oreos to yogurt to lip balm.

Both Caribou and Starbucks say their drinks have some pumpkin puree, but much of the spice flavor comes from a blend of spices that include ginger, cloves, nutmeg, allspice and cinnamon.

“It’s primarily cinnamon,” says UMN food scientist Gary Reineccius. “The others round it out and give it balance.”

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So, if you’re wondering are we at pumpkin spice peak? The numbers say probably not. Pumpkin-flavored products have been growing steadily for the past five years.

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