Full disclosure, right off the bat: I’m not a huge fan of pumpkin spice lattes–whether or not they’re from Starbucks or anywhere else. I enjoy my pumpkin pie (so long as there is plenty of whipped cream), but I’m just not crazy about pumpkin flavoring.
So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I was never one of those people with a Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte (PSL) permanently attached to my hand as soon as the seasonal drink returned to menus across the tri-state area. However, this year the PSL is a little different: it actually includes pumpkin.
Last month, Peter Dukes, Starbucks’ director of espressos in America, shared the ingredients list for the new and improved PSL, which includes espresso, milk, and Pumpkin Spice Flavored Sauce among other things. But the special PSL sauce is listed as including pumpkin puree.
In Dukes’ blog post, he also wrote that, “After hearing from customers and partners about ingredients, we took another look at this beverage and why we created it so many years ago. It was simple–espresso, perfectly steamed milk, warm fall spices with delicious flavor of pumpkin pie that reminds you of the cool, crisp days of autumn.”
Dukes goes on to mention the addition of real pumpkin to the recipe and that the caramel coloring has been removed. Though Dukes’ words are vague, many have speculated that the move comes after Food Babe blogger Vani Hari broke down the ingredients of the PSL, revealing the lack of pumpkin and the inclusion of caramel coloring, which she claimed is toxic.
Hari’s “You’ll Never Guess What’s In A Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte (Hint: You Won’t Be Happy)” sparked discussion about the ingredients in the beloved drink. Snopes, the online debunker of rumors even has an article on her claims about the PSL and reported the latte isn’t nearly as harmful as Hari claimed.
Now, the discussion of Starbucks hiding toxic ingredients seems moot since Dukes’ blog has offered up the PSL ingredient list for its consumers’ easy viewing. In fact, fans of the PSL should be worried about something else in relation to the drink: its dwindling popularity.
According to the food-tracking app My Fitness Pal, pumpkin spice flavoring–which includes all food consumed, not just lattes–rose in consumption between 2009 and 2013, but decreased by 7.3 percent from 2013 to 2014. My Fitness Pal, however, indicates that salted caramel flavoring is on the rise, and has year-round appeal unlike the season pumpkin spice.
As I’ve discussed in the past, there are trends in food flavoring just as much as in any other realm of the food industry. Although the birthday cake flavor was everywhere a few years ago, it has fallen out of popularity in favor of red velvet, salted caramel, and s’mores. Now it seems that pumpkin spice lattes are seeing a similar downfall in favor of other flavors.
That being said, the PSL has more of a spot in our culture than birthday cake flavoring ever did. The PSL, especially a Starbucks’ PSL, is as integral as Uggs to the “Basic Bitch” stereotype, which paints twenty-something women as vapid, self-centered consumers.
Of course, many have challenged the Basic Bitch stereotype, and the PSL’s part in it, including Bustle’s Aria Bendix, who wrote, “Despite what the media may tell me, it is possible for me to love apple picking and pumpkin spice lattes and still remain the distinct, multi-faceted human being that I believe myself to be.”
If My Personal Fitness’ reports of PSL’s diminishing popularity are accurate, maybe it’s because of the drink’s previously dubious ingredients. Or maybe people are just getting sick of pumpkin spice. Perhaps Starbucks’ new and improved PSL will be able to recapture the heart of the masses by including real pumpkin–it depends on whether the new ingredients improve or take away from the latte.
It’s my opinion, as a self-pronounced non-PSL lover, that the real pumpkin does in fact improve the drink, and a good coffee drink is all that really matters, isn’t it?