ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Why is Pumpkin Spice so popular?

Updated on September 8, 2014

From coffee shops to candles, cupcakes, teas, and more, the unmistakable aroma of pumpkin spice has invaded to signal the start of autumn. Some of us cannot imagine going through the season without our favorite pumpkin spice lattes. Still others groan, begrudging the shelves upon shelves of the stuff. Indeed, it seems that every year we are reintroduced to the taste and smell through new, sometimes disturbing mediums. Pumpkin spice ales, potato chips, and even beef jerky are hitting the aisles this year. With a nearly overwhelming presence, it’s hard to believe that not so long ago pumpkin spice was an ingredient regulated to pie and little else. So, what took a once humble little spice into superstardom? Let’s dig in and discover the history of pumpkin spice.

Pumpkin spice!  (Yes, it is actually a spice.)
Pumpkin spice! (Yes, it is actually a spice.) | Source

The Insanity Begins

Pumpkin spice is a derivative of pumpkin pie spice, an ingredient commonly used in (what else?) pumpkin pies. In the beginning, pumpkin pie was actually a savory dish, which relied more on flavors such as rosemary and salt than the more familiar sweet pie we enjoy today.

Around the 15th century, cooks began to experiment with sweeter concoctions, which blended much better with a pumpkin’s strong gourd flavor. A typical pumpkin pie spice combination includes cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves. One of the first recorded uses of such spices in pumpkin pies comes from a recipe book written in 1685 by Robert May called The Accomplisht Cook.

By the 20th century, commercially blended pumpkin pie spice mixes were available at nearly every grocery store. Baked goods using pumpkin pie flavors ranged in popularity of the years, but the kitchen is where it usually stayed.

So, if pumpkin pie has been a fall-time staple for hundreds of years, then why has it only been in the last decade or so that we’ve seen pumpkin spice explode in popularity? We have Starbucks to blame.

The culprits "aka" pumpkin spice lattes.
The culprits "aka" pumpkin spice lattes. | Source

From Simple Spice to Superstar

In spring of 2003, Starbucks was already gearing up for fall palates in their secret flavor testing lab. They presented 20 new flavors to testers, one of which was the now infamous Pumpkin Spice Latte. Surprisingly, the flavor actually flopped during the first rounds of testing. Many of the tasters rated the latte as mediocre at best. It took one of the company’s product managers, a man named Peter Dukes, to save the “PSL” from the reject bin. Understanding the nostalgic link between the flavors of pumpkin pie and the autumnal season, Dukes and his team worked tirelessly until they uncovered the perfect flavor combination.

What resulted was one of the most profitable flavors the company had ever introduced. As of this year, sales of Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte have reached into the hundreds of millions, thanks in part to social media buzz. With so much fervor over the drink, it was only natural that other companies would want to cash in on the hype. Over the last ten years, pumpkin spice has been infused into just about anything you can eat or smell, all thanks to a drink that almost never existed.

Pumpkins, Spice, And Everything... Lies?

Recently, there has been public outcry about the actual amount of pumpkin in these famous pumpkin foodstuffs. Even Starbucks has been targeted by prominent food bloggers about the distinct lack of real pumpkin in the ingredients of their most famous drink. The majority of the time, food and beverage companies actually use synthetic pumpkin “flavoring” instead. The reasons for this are numerous; from cost to preservation concerns to flavor integrity. With the natural foods movement in full-swing, many are disappointed that their favorite treats do not fit into their dietary needs.

The easiest way to make sure your chosen pumpkin spice indulgence uses real, natural ingredients is to do a little research. Checking labels and requesting nutritional information in-person or online are great ways to make sure you know what you’re consuming. Of course, the best way to be sure your pumpkin spice snacks and drinks are more pumpkin and less “artificial flavoring” is to make them yourself!

A "Spicy" Poll

What is your favorite

See results

© 2014 JJ Heathcoat


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • jjheathcoat profile imageAUTHOR

      JJ Heathcoat 

      4 years ago from Oklahoma

      I have to admit that I am most definitely one of those people who has to have pumpkin spice coffee creamer as soon as it's in stock!

    • profile image

      Debra Harmel 

      4 years ago

      Fall is my favorite time of year! The aroma of the pumpkin bread baking or even pumpkin spice candle burning just sets to mood for the fall season!


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)