Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte: Now With Real Pumpkin

After Hearing From Customers, Coffee Giant Cleans Up Beloved PSL

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Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Lattes
Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Lattes Credit: Starbucks

The famous Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte will soon include a key ingredient: real pumpkin.

The coffee giant announced Monday that this year's version of the drink -- better known as a PSL to those who order it all fall -- will now be made with some real pumpkin and without caramel coloring.

"After hearing from customers and partners about ingredients, we took another look at this beverage and why we created it so many years ago," Starbucks' Peter Dukes wrote in a blog post issued Monday.

The new Pumpkin Spice Flavored Sauce includes sugar, condensed skim milk and pumpkin puree, along with a little bit of fruit and vegetable juice (for color), plus natural flavors, annatto (for color), potassium sorbate (a preservative), and salt, Mr. Dukes wrote.

Starbucks declined to say when the drink will appear on its menus this year. Last year, fans who knew to order it could get it in late August. A spokeswoman said fans might get to snag an early fix this year by following @TheRealPSL on various social media channels.

Starbucks' PSL was a trendsetter in the pumpkin spice category when it was launched in 2003. Other coffee drinks have followed, such as Dunkin' Donuts Pumpkin Swirl Latte. M&Ms even brought out Pumpkin Spice M&Ms, while Trader Joe's launched Pumpkin bagels and cream cheese.

Starbucks isn't the only company touting a cleaner pumpkin latte.

Panera Bread said it would launch what it is calling a "real pumpkin latte" on Tuesday in Starbucks' hometown of Seattle. The Panera concoction, which includes milk, real pumpkin, whipped cream, spices and salted caramel sauce, will be served at a public sampling at Seattle's Victor Steinbrueck Park on Tuesday morning. The drink will hit U.S. stores Sept. 9.

"Our pumpkin offerings have long included real pumpkin – and this year our pumpkin spice latte takes real a step further," Dan Kish, Panera's senior vice president of food, said in a statement. "We are the only national restaurant company offering a 'Real Pumpkin Latte,' made entirely without artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, preservatives or high fructose corn syrup. We're letting the goodness of real pumpkin, milk and spices do all the work."

The FDA said last year that it was reviewing data on the safety of 4-MEI, a chemical compound that forms as a trace impurity when certain types of caramel coloring are made. At that time, the FDA said it was reassessing potential exposure to 4-MEI from caramel coloring in food products but said for now it was not recommending that consumers change their diets because of any concerns about 4-MEI.

Panera said it is also doing testing in the hopes of launching "clean" versions of its vanilla, caramel and chocolate syrups.

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