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Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte turns 20, beloved by millions, hated by some


The seasonal drink that made pumpkin spice a star is turning 20. And unlike the autumn days it celebrates, there seems to be no chill in customer demand.

Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte went on sale Thursday in the U.S. and Canada, as it does each year when the nights start getting longer and the fall winds gather. It’s the coffee giant’s most popular seasonal beverage, with hundreds of millions sold since its launch in 2003. And it has produced a huge — and growing — industry of imitators flecked with cinnamon, nutmeg and clove. In the year ending July 29, U.S. sales of pumpkin-flavored products reached $802.5 million, according to Nielsen. That’s up 42% from the same period in 2019.

There are pumpkin spice Oreos, protein drinks, craft beers, cereals and even Spam. For better — and, some might say, for worse — the phenomenon has moved beyond coffee shops and groceries and into the larger world. Great Wolf Lodge is featuring a Pumpkin Spice Suite at five of its resorts this fall, decked out with potpourri, pumpkin throw pillows and bottomless pumpkin spice lattes. It has also spawned a vocal group of detractors — and become an easy target for parodies.

Comedian John Oliver once called pumpkin spice lattes “the coffee that tastes like a candle.” The haters, though, appear to be in the minority. Last year, Starbucks said sales of its pumpkin spice drinks were up 17% in the July-September period. 

Associated Press


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