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Pumpkin Spice Lattes coming back to Starbucks. Why are they so popular?

Starbucks has been selling the famous PSL for nearly 20 years, but the flavor's history goes back way longer.

SEATTLE — Sure, temperatures are still scorching in much of the U.S. —  but that won't stop pumpkin spice from coming back before the end of August. 

Starbucks announced Monday that fall items, including the famous Pumpkin Spice Latte, will be back on the menu starting Tuesday. It'll be joined by other fall-themed beverages and a full slate of pumpkin baked goods.

Even though it came far before the actual start of fall, Starbuck's pumpkin spice launch was later than that of many competitors — and its own grocery store launches. Grocery stores were already carrying Starbucks-branded pumpkin creamer, and fellow coffee chain Dunkin' started selling its own fall items on Aug. 10. 

That's not including the yearly parade of unexpectedly pumpkin products Americans have begun to expect in late August: Last year, it was pumpkin spice mac n' cheese. This year, pumpkin spice Goldfish crackers.

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Pumpkin spice first appeared in a Starbucks latte nearly 20 years ago. But the flavor — originally a blend of cinnamon, nutmeg and other spices meant for pies — had a long history in kitchens before it became near-ubiquitous in coffee chains. 

Spice giant McCormick & Company first introduced a commercial Pumpkin Pie Spice to the U.S. back in 1934, and such blends were mixed in home kitchens long before that. 

So why's it so popular now? Experts say pumpkin spice drinks actually have a lot in common with a McRib... marketing-wise, at least. 

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“One of the reasons is because it is seasonal, so it's sort of that psychology of the limited time only. So I think of things like the McRib... get it now because it's going away,” dietician and Sound Bites Nutrition founder Lisa Andrews told VERIFY last year

For the McRib and gourd-flavored beverages alike, limited-time offers can cause a strong psychological reaction.

"We might prefer to eat regular Oreos, but knowing that pumpkin spice Oreos are only around for a few weeks makes the latter choice more appealing to us," wrote neuroscientist Dr. Jordan Gaines Lewis for The Conversation. Lewis said other factors in the PSL's popularity are social influence, nostalgia... and sugar.

For many Americans, pumpkin spice is also just a comforting flavor. 

“The other thing is that spice combination, and that blend was used very early on in American culture," Andrews said. "So we sort of see it as comfort food, and there's just sort of this rich history of those particular spices being used, particularly around holiday time.”

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