Bookmark and Share September 13, 2011 - Dave Mulder

How Starbucks puts the pumpkin spice into its Pumpkin Spice Latte

For college students, soccer moms, and young professionals, fall formally begins with the return of Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte. Pumpkin Spice has only been around for a few years, but has already gathered a cult following on par with McDonald’s Shamrock Shake. Pumpkin Spice is so popular for Starbucks that it featured in a social media campaign last month — cities giving Starbucks the most number of likes were the first to receive the beloved latte.

So what’s in it? Like other flavored lattes, you have espresso, steamed milk, and syrup. The Pumpkin Spice magic, then, is in the syrup.

There’s a problem. Though Starbucks is forthcoming about calories, they aren’t overwhelmingly transparent about ingredients. You can’t find that information on their website, but you can email and ask. That’s what I did, and here’s what they said.

Ingredients in Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Syrup

Sugar, Condensed Nonfat Milk, Sweetened Condensed Nonfat Milk, Annatto (E160b, Colour), Natural and Artificial Flavours, Caramel Colour (E150D), Salt, Potassium Sorbate (E202, a preservative).

I’m glad Starbucks was forthcoming with their ingredients, but I am a bit disappointed by what I found. Other flavored syrup makers use natural additives —  for example, real vanilla instead of vanillin. Starbucks has engineered Pumpkin Spice Syrup with some amount of artificial flavor. Considering how ‘pumpkin spice’ is probably some combination of nutmeg, cinnamon, and clove,  I wonder what they’re faking. At least they’re not using high fructose corn syrup.

In case you’re wondering, competing syrup makers also sell their own versions of pumpkin spice. Though I can’t find exact ingredients, Torani claims to be all-natural. I find this believable since most of Torani’s products are made from natural ingredients. Monin, on the other hand, follows the Starbucks script with some artificial flavors.

I’m thankful for Starbucks’ revealing the ingredients in its Pumpkin Spice Syrup, but knowing that they use artificial flavoring will keep me from ordering this drink in the future. And that’s too bad, the last one I had (a few years ago) was delicious.

Notes: Photo courtesy Katie Stine on Flickr.

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