By Steven Alvarez,
Money and Investing Writer
Starbucks (NASDAQ: SBUX) spices up their menu every fall season with all things pumpkin spice as a marketing strategy. The fall months have consistently been the busiest months for Starbucks. Sales are the highest in the month of December, followed by November, October, and then September. With pumpkin spice flavored items served largely during these months, there is no question that these items are critical to Starbucks’ sales.
The most popular Starbucks item during this season is the Starbucks pumpkin spice latte, or as customers like to call it- the PSL. September 1st marked the start of the pumpkin spice season as well as its 10 year anniversary.
According to Elite Daily, “It also pretty much marked fall’s beginning, because once you hop on the pumpkin train, it’s impossible to get off. Cozy sweaters, chilly weather, and pumpkin spice everything are imminent.”
It is the offering that began the pumpkin spice crave throughout the country and inspired other pumpkin spice offerings such as pumpkin spice Oreos, M&Ms, and pumpkin scented deodorant, pet shampoo, and numerous other offerings.
As for the number of PSLs sold, Starbucks reports that over 200 million have been sold since it was added to the fall menu. This means 20 million beverages are sold each fall season accounting for at least $80 million in revenue- not including other pumpkin spice items sold. There is no question that it is a consumer favorite. The craze has even stretched out to vegans who petitioned to have vegan friendly version of the Starbucks latte that does not contain milk.
Fortune Insiders reports that “Consumer demand for new flavors and experiences continues to drive food marketing, making the flavor and fragrance category big business, accounting for about $25 billion in annual U.S. sales in 2016”.
Pumpkin spice offerings that are only available for the fall months satisfy consumer demand for new flavors every fall season. “There is also the simple fact of scarcity. Consumers can’t get their favorite flavor any time of year, which makes them value it all the more and creates a spike in demand for a product.”
Consumer craving for all things pumpkin spice flavored are not only driven by sheer flavor; as Fortune Insiders calls it, “there’s a bigger consumer desire driving this trend, making it less about the spice and more about consumers wanting to spice up their lives.”
Pumpkin spice offerings not only satisfy a physical need, but also an emotional need. As long as consumer desire to “spice up their lives” persists, Starbucks and billionaire owner Howard Schultz will continue to rake in the customers every fall season.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, September 12th print edition.
Contact Steven at