There are two kinds of pumpkin spice products in the world: the Starbucks pumpkin spice latte, and everything else. Over the last 15 years, the autumnal beverage — which tastes something like a melted pumpkin pie milkshake with a hint of espresso — has become the harbinger of fall for Starbucks fans across America. Traditionally, the drink has been available a few weeks before the beginning of autumn, but this is the first time in the company’s history when Starbucks has officially started serving the drink before Labor Day. So if you heard about the pumpkin spice drop-date — today, August 28 — earlier this month, and thought it seemed a touch early, you weren’t wrong: the PSL creep is very, very real.
Back in 2003, when Starbucks first started toying with the idea of expanding its holiday drink offering to include fall-themed beverages, it conducted a bunch of customer surveys, all of which indicated that people were not interested in a pumpkin-themed drink. But a product manager in the espresso division by the name of Peter Dukes had a hunch that customers would like a pumpkin pie-flavored drink if it had an appealing blend of spices, and the right branding. After tinkering with the formula, Dukes and the Starbucks crew introduced the drink in a few markets, and it proved to be an immediate success. “You just looked at the sales results and you knew,” the PSL creator told Seattle Met a few years ago. “It clearly separated itself from any other beverages we had tested at that point in the market.”
The PSL drop date is a very big day for Starbucks, and the four months during which it’s served are traditionally the busiest of the year. Considering the rough year that the ‘Bucks has had so far, it makes sense that the chain would want to rush the release of a beverage that is not only extremely popular, but also gets people excited about the brand for months to come. To build up anticipation for its fall line of beverages, the chain even launched an exceedingly warm-and-fuzzy Facebook group called the Leaf Rakers Society.
In addition to the PSL, Starbucks is also now serving its salted caramel mocha and pumpkin spice chai latte, as well as a number of fall-themed baked goods. Expect a slew of less-iconic pumpkin spice products to flood the market in the coming weeks.