It’s August, so go ahead and gird yourself for pumpkin season. Yes, that tell-tale sign of impending autumn, the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte, arrived on Tuesday, August 25—making it the earliest ever debut for the cult-like beverage, according to Food & Wine.
Last year, the PSL arrived in Starbucks stores on August 27; in 2018, it was August 28. There's no denying that the coffee chain is forcing its fall favorites on us earlier and earlier. Early enough to make us consider getting that Pumpkin Spice over ice, in fact.
The much-derided orange beverage is just the most famous example of a marketing trend that spreads far beyond coffee. As early as late July, pumpkin-flavored snacks, cookies, cereals, and other foods you wouldn’t think should taste like pumpkin start hitting stores, giving the people what they really want: to pretend they’re cozying up in a scarf on a brisk fall day instead of sitting in front of their air conditioners in their underwear.
Why does Starbucks keep pushing the starting beverage lineup of the fall season closer and closer to mid-summer? Dollar bills, obviously. In the first decade after the drink’s launch in 2003, the company sold around 200 million Pumpkin Spice Lattes (despite the fact that they may or may not have contained any pumpkin at all). In 2015, Forbes estimated that it would make $100 million from the PSL that fall alone. Despite the online hate, a huge chunk of people loooove their PSLs.
These days, it’s not fall until someone starts hating on the Pumpkin Spice Latte. And given that so many of us have spent the past several months barely leaving our couches, there's something comforting about the PSL's return.
This story has been updated for 2020.