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Autumn Starts Early as Pumpkin Spice Latte Turns 20

Twenty years after Starbucks debuted its pumpkin spice latte, autumn for marketers keeps arriving earlier and earlier.

starbucks 2346226 640 smallAs Smithsonian Magazine reports, Starbucks started offering its signature fall drink and other seasonal items for the cooler months on August 24, when much of America was facing a heat wave. The rollout used to begin in September.

The PSL, as it’s sometimes known, overtook the wintertime peppermint mocha as the giant coffee retailer’s best-selling seasonal drink. Hundreds of millions have been sold, and these days, the old grocery-aisle staples of pumpkin purée and pumpkin-pie topping are far from the only places where the flavor can be found as summer winds down.

There were 86 limited-time pumpkin launches in August 2022, more than double the figure three years earlier, NBC reports, citing data for the top 500 restaurant chains and top 40 convenience stores. August is catching up on November as the most popular month to start offering limited-time pumpkin items.

But pumpkin foods and drinks are growing more prevalent all fall long. There were more than 559 pumpkin-themed seasonal items at restaurants and convenience stores in 2022, up from 268 in 2019.

As Modern Retail reports, many brands are checking the temperature and rolling out iced versions of pumpkin items. Starbucks has launched a new Iced Pumpkin Cream Chai Tea Latte. Chobani introduced a new oat milk pumpkin drink intended for ice. Goodpop, a frozen dessert brand, also hopped on the pumpkin bandwagon this year, pointing to customer demand.

Marketers who aren’t keen on pumpkin spice don’t have to wait until winter. As the Associated Press reports, last year Starbucks kicked off its holiday-themed drink menu on November 3.

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