Editorial — Pumpkin spice, the polarizing fall flavor


Andie Balenger/NW

HOT TAKE — Two pumpkin spice lattes, fresh from a local coffee shop. With flavors and scents like cinnamon apple and sweet caramel, we have to wonder whether pumpkin spice is truly the flavor of fall.

With the leaves yet to hit their peak of red, orange and yellow colors, another fall phenomenon has already swept away the population: pumpkin spice.

The fall flavor and scent seemed to permeate the public consciousness early this year, with pumpkin spice branded items making their way to grocery store shelves, home decor aisles and local coffee shops by Sept. 1. The flavor is a unique mixture of cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg and allspice — typical fall spices that are associated with feelings of warmth and comfort. 

Pumpkin spice has become so synonymous with the autumn season, in fact, that people anxiously await its arrival every year. 

For instance, Starbucks has been actively promoting PSLs — the well-known acronym for pumpkin spice lattes — on its Instagram account since Aug. 29, three days before the company officially reintroduced the notorious fall drink. The coffee company’s social media pages have been taken over by TikToks, graphics and other promotional pieces encouraging consumers to indulge in the flavor.

And, of course, people have, too.

The flavor is so cherished that consumers build their entire fall aesthetic around all things pumpkin spice. From cereals to coffee creamers, and even limited-edition pumpkin spice Twinkies, consumer industries have leaned heavily into the trend for extreme monetary gain — and it works year after year without fail.

The pumpkin spice industry has an estimated worth of over $500 million, according to data collected by Nielson in 2019. The industry has been growing in size and complexity since Starbucks first released the PSL in 2003. 

The pumpkin spice craze, however, extends beyond the food industry. 

Pumpkin spice scented candles, along with decorations containing phrases like “pumpkin spice and everything nice” or “my blood type is pumpkin spice” are sold every fall. And while many point and laugh at the décor when shopping, some people seriously purchase these items to display in their homes.

While it makes sense for pumpkin spice to accompany the fall season, due to the flavor profile of the spices, we should not have to rely on it being a specific holiday season to enjoy tasting a certain flavor. 

However, the reason we will never have pumpkin spice year-round is that companies refuse to regularly produce the flavor. The year-long availability of pumpkin spice would diminish the anticipation and joy that many consumers experience during the fall. The flavor would be less desirable to consumers, and therefore less profitable to corporations.

What is most frustrating about pumpkin spice, however, is how it has been labeled as a “basic white girl” drink. This label accompanies the slander that most women get during the fall season, particularly for posting perfectly-timed Instagram photos with leaves cascading through the air or documenting their quick excursion to a local pumpkin patch.

While this demographic certainly enjoys the drink, and perhaps makes a post or two about it, the enjoyment of a PSL is not exclusive to “basic white girls.”

In fact, a lot of them hate the drink and the idea that it is assumed to be a part of their personality.

The popularity of the drink, which many find to be poor in taste anyways, is particularly infuriating to those who prefer other fall flavors and scents. Cinnamon apple, sweet caramels and maple have often proved themselves to be superior to pumpkin spice. Even a walk outside in the fresh, fall air is more alluring to some than a PSL.

But if you are a huge fan of pumpkin spice, do not let the flavor haters stop you. 

Pumpkins are ripe this time of year, so it may be fun to harvest some pumpkins and attempt to make the fall flavor from scratch — online recipes are easily accessible. By doing this, you are not only supporting local farmers but also refusing to support large corporations that use the flavor’s “limited edition” appeal to sell you a mediocre item.

If it so pleases you, do not let anyone prevent you from living your pumpkin spice fantasy.

Editor’s Note: The North Wind is committed to offering a free and open public forum of ideas, publishing a wide range of viewpoints to accurately represent the NMU student body. This is an editorial, written by the North Wind Editorial Board in its entirety. It reflects the majority views of the individuals who make up the editorial staff of the North Wind. It is the policy of the Editorial Board not to endorse candidates for any political office, in order to avoid aligning this public forum with particular political organizations.