LOS ANGELES, Oct. 28, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Based on a "Love It or Hate It" food-and-beverage poll conducted by Special Interest Enthusiast Network PASHpost, 79% of respondent's "love" Pumpkin Spice Latte, while 21% of those surveyed "hate" the seasonal beverage.
Renowned for combining flavors of pumpkin with a variety of spices, Pumpkin Spice Lattes have become synonymous with the fall season. While some would argue that the beverage's rise to fame is the result of Starbucks introducing the product in 2003, this autumnal drink is brewed with both an interesting legacy as well as powerful scientific data supporting reasons for its popularity.
A History Steeped in More Than Beans
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the dairy and espresso-based beverage known as "caffe latte" took hold in 1867 when American author William Dean Howells illustrated the virtues of the drink in "Italian Journeys," his book of essays detailing journeying the Italian countryside during the mid-19th century.
Based on three non-related psychological studies conducted by medical journals Live Science and Psychology Today, there is scientific evidence involving perception and demand supporting the drink's allure. "Whenever we come across certain smells, the amygdala can quickly remind us of a specific time, place feeling or gut instinct, before we even realize it," reported Catherine Franssen, Assistant Professor of Biopsychology and Director of Neurostudies at Longwood University in Virginia, who, in a 2018 study originally published on Live Science, attributes these associations to the brain's amygdala, the area retaining emotionally based information including nostalgia. "You smell it - or even see those pumpkin pictures - and the cerebral cortex, the part of the brain that can recall past associations, springs into action and tells the reward part of your brain [the mesolimbic dopaminergic pathway], this pumpkin spice treat is going to be great, just like it was last time," Franssen added.
Consistent with Dr. Franssen's association between our sense of smell and time of year, the PSL's desirability is as predictable as nature's changing of colors, triggering marketplace demand commonly referred to as reactance theory. According to a 2015 neurological study published in Psychology Today, Dr. Jordan Lewis, a neuroscientist at Penn State College of Medicine, applied the reactance theory to behavior associated with seasonally offered products as it relates to memory association.
"We become motivated to respond to offers when we feel that our choices and alternatives are limited," explains Dr. Lewis. "Marketers have known this for years. We have all seen commercials for products offered for a 'limited time only' or felt more motivated to go shopping for new clothes when a '30% off only through Sunday' shows up in the newspaper."
Seasonality and product demand were further examined in Robert Cialdini's book "Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion" addressing the issue of scarcity and marketing, involving intentionally limited demand as a way of increasing product demand. In his book, Cialdini states, "When our freedom to have something is limited, the item becomes less available, and we experience an increased desire for it. However, we rarely recognize that psychological reactance has caused us to want the item more; all we know is that we want it." This concept of the innate human "need" quantified by scarcity provides reasoning for the common use of limited availability as a marketing ploy, supported in findings by Cialdini and other noted research to date.
PSL and Beyond
With the PSL trend showing no signs of letting up, the question of sustainability in product sourcing remains as a thought for the present and the future. As reported by the USDA, in 2017, about 40 percent of pumpkin acres were grown in five states: Illinois, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Texas, and California.
Based on statistics provided by the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center ("AMRC"), 15 percent of the pumpkin acreage is used to make processed pumpkin products. According to AMRC, canned goods manufacturer Libby's Brand Holding boasts approximately 90% market share of North America's canned pumpkin products. These findings, in an analysis conducted by Neilson, also found total sales of pumpkin-infused food and beverages and personal and household goods in supermarkets and convenience stores across the U.S. increased almost 80 percent between 2011 and 2015.
"Of course, not all products do justice to pumpkin spice - as (comedian) John Oliver says: Some (pumpkin spice) truly tastes like a candle might," said Dr. Lewis. "Now, if you excuse me, I'm going to reward myself for writing this with a pumpkin spice latte," the good doctor added.
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PSL: Love It or Hate It
79% of respondent's 'love' Pumpkin Spice Lattes, while 21% of those surveyed 'hate' the seasonal beverage. Photo Courtesy of Canva
SOURCE PASHpost Inc.