Let the Pumpkiness Begin


Hard to believe it’s been fifteen years since Starbucks introduced the now infamous #PSL drink replete with it’s own twitter handle @TheRealPSL boasting 110K followers and counting. This year the pumpkin spiced latte launched in the heat of late August instead of waiting for the cooler breezes of September or October. Apparently, Starbucks needs all the sales lift they can get based on headlines about layoffs, and by starting early, they can sell iced and hot. Mind you a latte does generally involve steamed milk, but chilled beverages make up more than 50% of their business these days, so why not offer iced?

As a nutritionist, I feel compelled to at least tell you the 16 oz grande #PSL will set you back 350 calories, including 48 grams of sugar. That’s 12 teaspoons in case your counting. But alas, this is not a calorie counting post nor a sugar bashing one. I’m more interested in pumpkin ingredients. According to the Starbucks website, the #PSL contains ‘pumpkin spice sauce’:


Milk, Pumpkin Spice Sauce [Sugar, Condensed Skim Milk, Pumpkin Puree, Contains 2% Or Less Of Fruit And Vegetable Juice For Color, Natural Flavors, Annatto, Salt, Potassium Sorbate], Brewed Espresso.

The popularity of pumpkin in coffee is evidenced by the fact sales of pumpkin flavored ready-to-drink coffee (26.5%) and liquid coffee creamer (11.9%) are both up in 2018. Looks like that #PSL mobile-order has some competition.

Moving beyond beverage, here are a few tasty options - many of which falling into that ‘limited time offer’ category - that have pumpkin or pumpkin puree listed as an ingredient:

Another form factor going strong is powdered pumpkin. There are brands like Kodiak Cakes offering Pumpkin & Flax Flapjack & Waffle Mix for a breakfast treat, and pumpkin powder is also in Grandma Lucy’s organic baked dog treats. Fido and friends will be so happy.



The net of all this pumpkiness? It’s safe to say consumers have and will predictably want pumpkin something-er-other each Autumn like clockwork. Pumpkin-flavored products now regularly reach nearly $500 million annually in the U.S. leading to the so called ‘pumpkin spice economy.’ And while pumpkin pie filling dropped 1% in 2018 based on year over year sales, it still represents the largest chunk of the pumpkin market. Notable growth areas include ice cream and pet foods. (news flash for Halo Top fans - there are only 5 pumpkin pie flavor pints left on Amazon as I write this. 😋)

One final thought that may go into the category of stating the obvious. Pumpkin is sold cheaply by the can, and by the BPA-free liner can at that. Best not get me started on how much of your daily beta-carotene is in that one can! Speaking of canned goods, new research out suggests pumpkin seed oil may protect against adverse effects of bisphenol A or ‘BPA’. It’s only one animal study, so let’s not over-interpret. It certainly is though one more reason to love all things pumpkin.