The choice to make the pumpkin cream cold brew, its first new pumpkin coffee beverage since the introduction of the pumpkin spice latte, is strategic. When the drink launches Tuesday with the rest of the fall menu, many parts of the U.S. are still experiencing summer weather, which can make a hot pumpkin spice latte seem unappealing.
Customer preferences are also shifting toward cold beverages, even when temperatures drop. Drinks like cold brew, iced espresso and Starbucks Refreshers account for more than 50% of Starbucks sales.
Roz Brewer, chief operating officer at Starbucks, said in December at the company’s investor day that cold drinks drive more brand affinity and keep customers coming back.
The pumpkin spice latte — also known by its nickname PSL — has kept customers coming back since its introduction in 2003. It is the coffee chain’s most popular seasonal drink, with roughly 424 million sold worldwide. While autumn does not technically start for several more weeks, many fans of the drink point to the annual release of the pumpkin-flavored beverage as the unofficial start of the season.
Dunkin’ and other coffee chains have jumped on the success of the pumpkin spice latte. Food brands have also taken note, releasing everything from almonds to Icelandic yogurt in the flavor.