Pumpkin, Spice, and Everything Nice

By: Rachel Theodorou

Every fall, a financial epidemic sweeps through the country, costing Americans over $500 million – this is what has become known as the “Pumpkin Spice Economy.” Since it’s launch by Starbucks in 2003, the Pumpkin Spice Latte (“PSL”) has created a hype, an obsession, that is unparalleled. Not only does Starbucks see a massive spike in profits during the fall months, but other cafes that serve their take on the drink benefit immensely as well.

The hype doesn’t stop there; pumpkin flavored yogurt, cereal, beer, home fragrance products, and even pumpkin flavored vodka become objects of the highest desire. One question persists – why are people so obsessed with pumpkin? The answer is quite scientific. Scientists have determined that approximately 80% of flavor is actually odor, and when an odor or flavor is combined with sugar consumption in a hungry person, a physiological reaction takes place on a subconscious level. People start associating that flavor with feeling satisfied, and crave more. It’s similar to the way drug addiction affects the body, only different neural mechanisms are at play with the PSL.

The obsession continues each and every year, and no one expects it to fall anytime soon.


Jacqueline Howard, What is “pumpkin spice,” anyway? And why do we crave it?, Cnn (last visited Sept. 23, 2017), http://www.cnn.com/2017/09/13/health/pumpkin-spice-ingredients-science-explainer/index.html.

Clare O’Connor, The Pumpkin Spice Economy: How Starbucks Lattes Fueled a $500 Million Craze, Forbes, (last visited Sept. 23, 2017), https://www.forbes.com/sites/clareoconnor/2015/11/10/the-pumpkin-spice-economy-how-starbucks-lattes-fueled-a-500-million-craze/.