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Understanding the popularity of pumpkin spice


When we think of fall, we usually think of the cascading, bright-coloured autumn leaves, the chilly, crisp windy air, Halloween costumes, thick, fuzzy sweaters and scarves, and of course pumpkin spice. Pumpkin spice is the unofficial flavour of fall, engulfed in one steaming hot cup or served in a fluffy loaf of pumpkin bread. But the question is, how and why did pumpkin spice become an essential part of the fall spirit?

Pumpkin spice is made of all the warm spices that we so commonly use in the autumn season. One frequent misconception is that pumpkin spice actually contains pumpkins. The name probably came to be because it is usually used to flavour a pumpkin pie. However, it’s typically made with a blend of ground cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, and occasionally allspice. 

Pumpkin spice was initially popularized by Starbucks. In 2003, members of the Starbucks team gathered to come up with the perfect seasonal drink for fall. They set up a variety of pumpkin pies and would taste a bit of each one, followed by hot espresso, to determine which flavour complimented the coffee best. Many other companies such as McDonalds, Dunkin Donuts, and Tim Hortons have also adopted Starbucks’ signature fall drink. We can thank them for the pumpkin spice lattes we know and love. 

One take on this is that scarcity is what popularizes pumpkin spice foods. Because they are a limited edition seasonal item, people are motivated to indulge before they go out of season.  

Nowadays, whenever fall rolls around, influencers start posting about how excited they are for pumpkin spice lattes to be back. People fear missing out on this exciting event that only occurs once a year during autumn.

The popularity of pumpkin spice can further be explained psychologically. Many believe that our love for pumpkin spice isn’t due to its appealing taste, but rather its strong, warm aroma. This is because the sense of smell is highly linked to emotions and memories, meaning smells can elicit many different positive or negative feelings. The smell of pumpkin spice often evokes a fuzzy, warm feeling, and creates nostalgia. Cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger bring back cozy memories of autumn and trigger positive emotions in people. It can remind people of the beautiful trees, spending time with family and friends, or bundling up by the fire. It allows people to reminisce about past fall recollections and creates an anticipation for new memories to be built in the coming fall. 

All in all, pumpkin spice has become a seasonal favourite, and fall wouldn’t be the same without it. 

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About the Contributor
Lein Elnaw, Contributor
Lein Elnaw is a contributor for the Kingsley Voice. She has been a part of the team since 2021.

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