Pumpkin Spice and Everything Not So Nice

Pumpkin spice products hit the shelves for the autumn season, bringing the spice-craze along with it.


Sabrina McGuire

All of the pumpkin spice products that were tried, including a batch of freshly baked pumpkin cookies.

Sabrina McGuire, Staff Writer

It’s obvious that Americans love the fall season. Football season starts up, and the weather becomes a bit colder, creating a nip in the air. Halloween brings pumpkins and candy, as well as an orange, yellow and red color scheme. One of the many infamous ‘signs of fall’ is the pumpkin spice craze.

With the start of September, coffee-drinkers add a little spice to their drinks, freshly baked desserts and pastries are put out on display, as well as almost every food company you can think of start putting out limited edition treats. Pumpkin spice donuts, muffins, Angel Food cake, cupcakes, and cookies are stocked in the bakery section of stores. Cereals, coffee, cinnamon rolls, toast, cream cheese and even ice cream line the shelves. Even pumpkin spice dog treats and gum are a thing!

Pumpkin spice is commonly used to make pumpkin pie, hence the original name ‘pumpkin pie spice.’ This spice is made up of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and allspice. Starbucks is usually the one to be credited for the start of the craze, when they released a Pumpkin Spice latte in 2003, after seeing the success seasonal drinks made for the company. After that, sales skyrocketed. More than 200 million pumpkin spice lattes were sold from 2003 to 2015, when they finally changed the recipe to include real pumpkin.

It’s nearly impossible to avoid the epidemic. Pumpkin spice is definitely an element of fall in most people’s lives. So, that begs the question, is pumpkin spice worth all of the hype? 

I set out to discover the answer. So, I did the only thing I could do; raided my local Hy-vee at nine o’clock at night. Hopes high and eyes alert, I scavenged through every aisle in search of any pumpkin spice flavored food. Finally, with a cart full of everything pumpkin spice, I checked out and headed home.

With anticipation, I woke up bright and early the next day. I packed open a box of Life Pumpkin Spice Cereal and poured it into the bowl. It didn’t look very appetizing. Life cereal had never been in my family’s pantry, only pretty sugary cereals with flavor. Let’s be honest, Life cereal is just a less sugary, more plain Chex cereal and we all know it. Once I took a spoonful of the cereal, I instantly knew my assumption was right. It tasted similar to how you would imagine leaving your left over pumpkin pie out in the rain for a week. 1.5/10

I was ready to wash the horrid after taste of Life cereal from my mouth, so I popped one of my dad’s Keurig Cups into the Keurig, and started brewing some warm coffee. The smell was absolutely disgusting–after all, if you give a coffee hater straight coffee, they’re bound to hate it. But I was hopeful. Pouring a tablespoon of Coffee-Mate Natural Bliss Pumpkin Spice Creamer into the coffee, I took a sip. Not going to lie, I nearly spit it out. Not a fan of coffee, but I could not even taste the pumpkin spice. After I put around three packets of sugar into the coffee, I could taste the pumpkin spice. I would rate the creamer about a 3/10

For the rest of my day, I gorged on all things pumpkin spice. (I was pretty sure I was going to be sick by all the pumpkin spice). A Betty Crocker Pumpkin Spice Cake Mug Treat was the next thing I tried. I had never once had a mug treat, and I had always been skeptical of the treat. I got out two mugs for my dad and myself, and poured the cake batter into the mugs. I mixed three tablespoons of milk into each mug and popped them into the microwave. Once they were done, we squeezed a Cream Cheese Topping over the top of the cake and added a drizzle of caramel syrup. If I’m being completely honest, it just simply tasted like those pumpkin cake things we get at school, just with even more spice. I only took two bites before I grew disgusted of it. It was just like plain pumpkin pie cake with some cream cheese on top for flavor. I would only give it a 7.5/10

The next thing I tried was Werther’s Original Pumpkin Spice Soft Caramels. And, let me tell you, it was like heaven melting in your mouth. The pumpkin flavor wasn’t too up front, and the caramels melted as I chewed them. Besides the Bath and Bodyworks smell, 8/10.

Finally, the end of the day had come. It was time to try the product I had been most excited for. Pillsbury ‘Ready to Bake’ Pumpkin Cookies. They looked good–they were cookies after all, and I have yet to run into an awful cookie–and the happy-looking Pillsbury Doughboy seemed a genuinely kind mascot. He looked trusting. After multiple tries to try and bake the cookies perfectly, I pulled them out of the oven nice and warm and crispy. The first bite was like Thanksgiving exploding in my mouth. My dad described it as ‘a bite of crispy pumpkin pie’ as he continued to eat three of the twelve cookies. The flavor of the pumpkin spice was not as insane as the cereal, but it was definitely there. I give it a 9/10, making it the best out of everything I tried.

All in all, Americans really need to relax on the pumpkin spice craze. More than half the products I tried were just a slap in the face with spices, and the other half were too sugar coated to ever taste the pumpkin. It’s only September and I’m already fed up with pumpkin spice. Pumpkin Spice is definitely not worth all of the hype.