Ah, the final days of summer. The last visits to the pool, the back-to-school shopping, maybe planning that Labor Day barbeque… and – wait for it – picking up the year’s first Pumpkin Spice Latte.
Love it or hate it, the PSL is back, earlier than ever. This time Starbucks’ most famous (infamous?) drink is rolling out mid-August, while much of America is still seeing temperatures in the 80s and 90s.1 This is the coffee giant’s earliest roll-out yet of its autumn menu, which this year also includes a Pumpkin Cream Cold brew, the first pumpkin drink it’s come up with since the PSL started the pumpkin spice craze 16 years ago.2
And as anyone who’s visited a grocery store in September through November knows, we now have pumpkin spice everything (even Spam).3
Dunkin Donuts has totally followed suit – not to be outdone! – and is offering a Cinnamon Sugar Pumpkin Signature Latte, along with apple cider donuts and cinnamon spice Munchkins (mmm). And as always, there will be classic pumpkin donuts and pumpkin muffins.4 Hightail it to Dunkin and you can get yourself a total pumpkin-flavored breakfast extraordinaire.
Why is the “pumpkin spice creep” a #PRWIN? Because, in short, these companies are sticking to their missions and giving the people what they want. People are religious about their PSLs, and there’s no doubt that there are people who would drink them year-round if they could. As soon as thoughts turn to the start of the school year, for coffee-drinking college students and parents, at least, thoughts turn to fall and fall’s delicious flavors. Why not indulge that anticipation?
Starbucks’ stated mission is to “inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.”5 Dunkin’s is to “make and serve the freshest, most delicious coffee and donuts quickly and courteously in modern, well-merchandised stores.”6 Inspirational? Delicious? Well-merchandised? The seasonal flavors that customers clamor for are definitely in line with these mission statements, and even in mid-August, people are lining up to scratch that excited itch, so why not?
Analysts at NPD Group, a market research firm, have good things to say about “limited time offers” (LTOs) like Starbucks’ annual fall menu. “A well executed LTO,” said NPD Group analyst David Portalatin, “can boost sales and serve as a competitive edge for restaurant operators.”7 Furthermore, his research found that 24% of people who bought a PSL last year had also purchased one the year before.8 Specialty flavors keep ‘em comin’ back!
Bravo to Dunkin and Starbucks for being our harbingers of fall. It may not be sweater weather yet, but pumpkin in your coffee is a promise of the amazing season change to come.