Although Starbucks’ pumpkin spice latte may have popularized the flavor, pumpkin spice was turning up everywhere this holiday season. According to a recent article in The New York Times, there were 79 different pumpkin spice-flavored menu items at the top restaurant chains this season. The choices are not just coffees, or even bagels or muffins—pumpkin beer and pumpkin pancakes both appeared on menus. The number of pumpkin drinks available has increased by 400% in the last 5 years. The flavor also turned up at the grocery store—pumpkin pie marshmallows and pumpkin yogurt were seasonal selections this holiday.
So what makes up pumpkin spice? Remarkably, pumpkin spice products often lack a pumpkin flavor. Even Starbucks’ latte contains no actual pumpkin in the pumpkin spice sauce. Instead, pumpkin spice suggests spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves, the flavorings often used in pumpkin pie.
For the tenth anniversary of the Starbucks drink, it even had its own hashtag (#PSL). Part of the charm for consumers is that the drink is only available for a limited time, and as a result, many articles documented the high number of tweets and overall excitement about the drink. Of course, the growing popularity also led to a backlash—including one writer’s attempt at the pumpkin spice diet. Although consumers will eventually tire of pumpkin spiced everything, it seems that this flavor is here to stay.
And yes, about that beef jerky: it’s a real product. Ed’s Roadhouse Jerky has a Spicy Pumpkin Jerky (“has a nice chile pepper flavor and a moderate level of heat”), but you might have to wait until next season to try it. It’s currently listed as out of stock on their website.