Pumpkin Spice is Not Always Nice


America, I think it’s safe to say we have jumped the shark – or the pumpkin spice deodorant – with our national pumpkin spice obsession. Yes, the deodorant is a real product. Go check it out if you want your pits to smell cozy and delectable this fall.

If I must point a finger at who got us into this mess in the first place, and I feel I must, you know it’s gotta be our favorite green and white mermaid over there at Starbucks. (Sidebar, she is technically a siren with two tails, not a pair of peculiar claw-hands as I had always assumed. But I digress.)

Starbucks introduced their pumpkin spice lattes, or PSLs for the uninitiated (and those with common sense who make coffee at home for pennies), back in 2003. The company’s flavor developers realized “there was something special around the pumpkin flavor, especially since there wasn’t anything around pumpkin at the time.” Remember those naïve days?

The funny thing is, the original recipe for PSL didn’t have a molecule of actual pumpkin in it – just spices associated with pumpkin pie. It wasn’t until twelve years later in 2015 that some pumpkin puree was added to the Starbuck’s formula.

But the initial success of the drink quickly led to Starbucks selling other pumpkin food products, like muffins and scones, and the pumpkin spice craze began to spread like mold inside a warm jack o’ lantern.  (Sidebar #2:  The Starbucks PSL has its own Instagram and Twitter accounts, if you want to see a personified hot beverage happily skateboarding or splashing in a puddle.)

Don’t get me wrong, I am perfectly fine enjoying a PSL or a pumpkin spiced muffin a couple times during the fall season. It’s a fine flavor combination if done in a lowkey manner. And I do like a nice pumpkin-related candle burning on a crisp, fall evening. But the entire pumpkin spice “lifestyle” has become ridiculous. It lasts far too long, and it currently reaches into areas of our lives that it never should have been allowed to enter.

PSLs debut in late August now. Talk about seasonal creep. Many of us are still sweating and smearing on SPF 50 through September. We don’t want to see twinkling Christmas trees in Costco or walk past pumpkin spiced yogurt while we’re buying back-to-school supplies.

I do understand the draw of the coffee drinks and the baked goods, smelling all nostalgia-like, and bringing up fond memories of Aunt Betty’s Thanksgiving pies. We are all well deserving of comfort these days. But every major food company, and far too many other consumer product companies have no business crowding the shelves with products like these:

Pumpkin spiced protein powder. You know, to promote muscle growth and perhaps a woody stalk growing out from the top of your head.

Pumpkin spiced dog treats. So your doggo won’t feel left out while your kids eat their pumpkin spice Cheerios. And when said doggo smells funky, you can bathe them with pumpkin spice dog shampoo. Really.

Pumpkin spiced sparkling juice. Because apple cider needed some competition.

Pumpkin spiced kale chips and kombucha. For the Whole Foods crowd to munch on while standing in line to buy some overpriced, dairy-free pumpkin spice coconut milk.

Pumpkin spiced salsa. To top off your gourd burritos. Or to dip your pumpkin spice Pringles into. Be sure to brush your teeth with pumpkin pudding flavored toothpaste when you are done!

Pumpkin spiced Poo-Pourri. So your guest bathroom smells fab, even after Uncle Henry camps out in there for 30 minutes during halftime of the football game.

Pumpkin Spice Teddy Bear stuffed animal. An online exclusive from Build-A-Bear workshop, so your kid’s bedroom can smell like it’s fall all year round.

And, for my fellow germaphobes, we have pumpkin spiced hand sanitizer and Harvest Pumpkin Spice scented face masks. Because Covid, and why the heck not?

The product list goes on and on and on… good gourd.

Simply stroll through Target or Trader Joe’s in the coming weeks because the overabundance of pumpkin stuff will be there until December, even if it’s crammed into the Clearance end caps because Peppermint Mocha everything will have overtaken center stage by mid-October. I dare you not to shake your head, roll your eyes, or mutter to yourself, “When will this madness end?” like a cranky old person who remembers pre-PSL autumns, when daily Hallmark holiday movies were just a glimmer in some TV executive’s eye.

Since the backlash against the pumpkin spiced life hasn’t changed a thing, and the glut of products just keeps on expanding, I guess I must resign myself to the fact that this phenomenon is not going away anytime soon. Someone out there is really buying the pumpkin spiced cat treats and the pumpkin spiced Chapstick.

I promise, it’s not me.