Artwork Colours Design

Is Everything Nice With Pumpkin Spice?

Banner for Pumpkin Spice

It’s been at least ten years that this rustic orange has been in this popular cultural eye. Pumpkin spice named was inspired by the autumn pie filling for pumpkin pie. The smell is supposed to inspire the feelings of changing leaves, thanksgiving and the fall harvest. The colour of pumpkin pie filling and pumpkin spice have different looks to them and they don’t really smell alike. Pumpkin spice is more of the stronger smells of the two.

HEX Code for Pumpkin #E85C07

Pumpkin spice is based on the spices used to make a pumpkin pie to mask the bland taste of pumpkin. It consists of cloves, cinnamon, allspice, ginger and nutmeg. The origins of the recipe for pumpkin pie goes back 3500 years. The aroma of freshly baked pumpkin pie is a sweet treat and the pie itself is really delicious especially with whipped cream on top.

Image of Recipe: Pumpkin Spice Pound Cake
Photo of a recipe for Pumpkin Spice Pound Cake by Adams Extract.
Source: Flickr – Adams Best

Many American colonists in the 1600s would have eaten pumpkin not as a pie but as a soup, stew, sauce, bread or cake or by roasting the squash just like the Indigenous Americans did. The pie crust was used as a cooking shell to bake to continents inside then tossed afterwards. Many years later people would have enjoyed pumpkin pie crust. The first recipe of pumpkin spice came from the 1796 cookbook The American Cookery by Amelia Simmons. It was called “Pompkin” and it consisted of mace, nutmeg, ginger, molasses, allspice and ginger in a similar recipe of the modern day pumpkin pie recipe.

Vintage tin of McCormick’s Pumpkin Pie Spice from the 1950’s

The food processing companies bundled the spices used for pumpkin pie in the 1950s for people who just wanted a readily available spice set instead of measuring five different types of spices. Other spices like apple spice which was used for apple pies were available during that time too. Companies started to market their spice collection in the same similar spice set fashion.

The pumpkin pie spice found its way onto other products over the years before the explosion of interest. Before the spice went into coffees, it was a candle scent in a wildCHASE, a Santa Fe, New Mexico store, making it the first non-food pumpkin spice product. Also in the 1990s, there was the first artificial flavouring syrup of pumpkin spice for an undisclosed coffee chain by Flavor and Fragrance.

A Starbucks cup surrounded by pumpkins outdoors. 
Source: Flickr - Denise Mattox
A Starbucks cup surrounded by pumpkins outdoors.
Source: Flickr – Denise Mattox

Starbuck’s Pumpkin Spice Latte originally designed to incorporate the flavour of a pumpkin pie in the drink. First, it was a pumpkin spice syrup which is a condensed artificial pumpkin and spice flavour. A few years later after the launch, real pumpkin flavour started to be used. It was marketed through social media a new flavour for the first time. It was a big hit with many. In America 2014, Starbucks earned $80 million in revenue on pumpkin spice lattes alone. This was contributed to social media marketing and the convenience of Starbuck’s easily found locations. Their social media content is syrupy at best because a positive happy message is more effective than the alternative corporate advertisement. The abbreviation of Pumpkin Spice Latte is sometimes turned into People Support Love on their social posts and their chalkboard street signs.

HEX Code for Pumpkin Spice
HEX Code for Pumpkin Spice

The colour in all of the advertisements that come out mid-September to early November is based on the baked pumpkin pie. The slightly dark rustic brown-orange is used on promotional products and advertisements for the short-lived season of Fall. The colour is connected with the change of seasons, the leaves turning different shades of yellow, orange and red, weather getting cooler and pumpkins being ready for harvest.

Before the Pumpkin Spice “craze”, there was maple sugar. This completely depends if you are in the North American area near Canada. There was a big fascination of having everything a sugary maple flavour. There still is but not as dominant as before. All of the retail shelves would be covered in maple products until the end of winter or the new years. Furthermore, there was the big Christmas season with everything cinnamon in flavour and somewhat in colour. But cinnamon was always a part of the shopping season and was not alone with gingerbread, peppermint and mulled wine.

The hunt for sugary savoury scents that were matched with the Fall colours of burnt orange. The marketplace tends to over saturate the shelves with everything burnt orange like a warm up to the two month long marketing campaign usually reserved for Christmas. The types of products out there that would try to connect themselves with the no-so-seemingly fad colour would find themselves buying things to be connected to Autumn.

A table of pumpkin spice products. Source: Flickr - Mike Mozart
A table of pumpkin spice products.
Source: Flickr – Mike Mozart

The following products have been infused with pumpkin spice:

  • Pumpkin Spice Latte
  • Pumpkin Spice Toothpaste
  • Pumpkin Spice Car Freshener
  • Pumpkin Spice Shower Gel
  • Pumpkin Spice Coffee Whitener
  • Pumpkin Spice Coffee
  • Pumpkin Spice Cookies
  • Pumpkin Spice Syrup
  • Pumpkin Spice Makeup
  • Pumpkin Spice Yogurt
  • Pumpkin Spice Liqueur

Why most people don’t like the advertising of pumpkin spice because of the over saturation of the one flavour/colour for the one season. Many people might find seeing it everywhere just has irritating as cinnamon-gingerbread-peppermint-eggnog hybrids on store shelves. Some companies believe celebrating the fall season with a product that grows in the fall help in sales.

This is an illustration of pumpkin products in an autumn field already changing in colours of orange and brown.
This is an illustration of pumpkin products in an autumn field already changing in colours of orange and brown.


Forbes – How Starbucks Turned Pumpkin Spice Into A Marketing Bonanza

All That’s Interesting – How Pumpkin Spice Took Over Fall: A Brief History

BBC – The rise and rise of pumpkin spice everything

Scientific American – The Rise of Pumpkin Spice

The Chicagoist – The Dark And Murky History Of Pumpkin Spice

Daily News – How America became obsessed with pumpkin spice

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