Oct 29, 2020
How Pumpkin Spice Created a Multi-million Dollar Industry
By Claire Grant
You can find pumpkin flavoring everywhere and before summer’s even over.
Once fall arrives, you can’t go anywhere without seeing pumpkin spice products—from the original Starbucks latte to Cheerios, bagels, Oreos, and even Jell-O.
In fact, as of August, 2019, consumers bought $511.5 million worth of pumpkin spice items. These sales marked a 4.7% increase from the previous year, when shoppers spent $488.8 million on similar products. Since Starbucks introduced the pumpkin spice latte in 2003, the number of pumpkin spice products on shelves continues to grow, and the start of pumpkin spice season seems to come earlier each year.
The pumpkin spice latte
Seventeen years after Starbucks started selling the pumpkin spice latte (also known as the PSL), it’s the coffee chain’s best-selling beverage. The pumpkin spice latte didn’t even include actual pumpkin until 2015. As of August, 2019, Starbucks had reportedly sold an estimated 424 million such beverages. The cost of a 12-ounce pumpkin spice latte falls between roughly $4.45 and $5.45. Comparatively, a regular, black coffee from Starbucks in the same size costs between $1.95 and $2.15.
For almost two decades, the PSL has been known as a sign that the leaves are beginning to change colors and people are carving pumpkins. The release date for the PSL has arrived earlier in recent years. In 2020, Starbucks started selling the drink on August 25, 2020, a full 13 days earlier than when it was released in 2015.
Other coffee chains have followed suit, creating their own pumpkin spice products. Dunkin’ Donuts introduced its pumpkin flavor for coffee drinks in 2007 as well as pumpkin-flavored doughnuts and muffins. (Dunkin’ reportedly released its lineup even earlier in the year than Starbucks.) And in stores, you can find pumpkin-spice coffee products from brands such as Green Mountain.3
The boom in pumpkin spice products
The success of the PSL has created an entire pumpkin spice industry, which now includes a range of products. And pumpkin-flavored coffee isn’t even the top seller anymore.
Of the nearly half-a-billion dollars worth of pumpkin products purchased in 2018, the biggest seller was pumpkin pie filling, accounting for $130.6 million of those sales. Pie filling was followed by dog food, which contributed $109.5 million to sales. Here’s a breakdown of other products by sales:
|Pumpkin Product||2019 Sales|
|Liquid Coffee Creamer||$54.3 million|
|Packaged Coffee||$29.7 million|
|Ready-to-eat cereal||$23.4 million|
|Sweet breads||$14 million|
|Ready-to-drink coffee||$12.3 million|
|Ice cream||$10.1 million|
|Greek yogurt||$9 million|
|Bread mix||$8.5 million|
The surge in pumpkin products and sales doesn’t seem to be slowing down. Sales of pumpkin-spice goods have steadily risen since 2015, when pumpkin product sales totaled $356.3 million. And while U.S. coffee shop sales have fallen by approximately 11% in 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic, it remains to be seen whether other pumpkin spice products will pick up the slack during the holidays.
If you’re one of the many people who enjoy a pumpkin spice latte or a pumpkin muffin here and there, consider using your Stash Stock-Back® card when you make your purchase.1 With this card, you can earn a small percentage of your purchase back as stock. And you might even earn a little more depending on the month with our extra Stock-Back bonuses.2 So you can enjoy that PSL even more!
You can also invest in fractional shares of some of the companies that make these products, such as Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, General Mills, and more, with Stash.3