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Sixteen years after introducing the pumpkin spice latte, Starbucks is finally bringing a new pumpkin drink to its fall menu: the pumpkin cream cold brew.
Starbucks started working on the new cold brew drink earlier this year, landing on a drink made with cold brew and a vanilla base and topped with frothy pumpkin cream cold foam and a dusting of pumpkin spice. The result is less sweet and has a stronger coffee taste than a pumpkin spice latte.
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.
For its part, Starbucks has followed the success of the pumpkin spice latte with other pumpkin limited-time items like pumpkin-spiced whipped cream and the pumpkin cream cheese muffin. Earlier in August, the chain released a pumpkin spice latte creamer and other pumpkin-spice products in grocery stores as part of its partnership with Nestle.