How pumpkin spice became the multimillion-dollar flavor that marks the official start of fall

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Pumpkin spice flavoring has rapidly become a multimillion-dollar industry, thanks to Starbucks.

While the coffee giant isn’t responsible for actually creating the flavor, their genius marketing campaign in the fall of 2003 (the first year their iconic pumpkin spice latte was available) created a flavor and scent empire that would inspire other major companies, like Dunkin’ Donuts, Bath & Body Works and Kellogg’s, to hop on the bandwagon.

Since 2003, Starbucks has made over $1 billion from pumpkin spice latte sales alone.

But what exactly caused this craze?

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Pumpkin spice flavored food and drink

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A huge factor is marketing. Short-term seasonal flavors always boost sales for businesses, but it’s the rarity of pumpkin spice that really skyrockets the flavor’s popularity during the fall months. 

Kara Nielsen, a food and beverage “trendologist,” explains to Cooking Light that while McDonald’s offers their special edition Shamrock Shake throughout March, the drink’s flavor — mint — is less special because it’s also the top pick for flavoring everyday items, such as toothpaste or gum. Thus, the limited availability of the pumpkin spice flavor plus how uncommon pumpkin spice is in everyday necessities makes pumpkin spice flavoring all the more alluring to consumers.

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6 Perfect Pumpkin Spice Recipes

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Read on for the best pumpkin spice recipes!

Pumpkin Spice Smoothies

If a hot pumpkin spice latte isn’t what you’re in the mood for, try this Pumpkin Spice Smoothie for breakfast!

Get the Recipe: Pumpkin Spice Smoothies

Crock Pot Pumpkin Spice Oatmeal

Even breakfast is not spared from the all-powerful pumpkin spice trend. Try this tasty oatmeal for breakfast.

Get the Recipe: Crock Pot Pumpkin Spice Oatmeal

Pumpkin Spice Latte Mini Scones

Now you can enjoy your favorite seasonal latte in the form of a mini scone. Your brunch guests will definitely thank you.

Get the Recipe: Pumpkin Spice Latte Mini Scones

Pumpkin Spice Latte Cookies

These delicious cookies are topped with a cinnamon cream cheese frosting!

Get the Recipe: Pumpkin Spice Latte Cookies

Pumpkin Spice Kisses Sugar Cookies

If you love sugar cookies, you’re sure to enjoy this version with added pumpkin spice flavor!

Get the Recipe: Pumpkin Spice Kisses Sugar Cookies




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Then it becomes about association. The sale of pumpkin-flavored food, personal and household goods rose almost 80 percent from 2011 to 2015. After a certain amount of exposure to these flavors and scents during a specific time of the year, our brains begin to associate pumpkin spice with fall, and vice versa. 

How has the flavor become such a booming moneymaker? A study mentioned in the video above shows that companies often hike up their prices for pumpkin-flavored goods — betting that most people won’t notice the price difference since it’s only available for a short amount of time, once a year.

Watch the video above for more background on how pumpkin spice got to be the powerhouse flavor it is today. 

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Beauty essentials with pumpkin

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