Fall-themed foods and drinks are big business. According to Forbes, the market for pumpkin spice-flavored products in 2018 was $600 million. Sales of pumpkin spice lattes from leading brands accounted for over a sixth of that market. This may help explain why we're seeing PSLs and similar creations proliferating on restaurant chain and coffee shop menus and at grocery stores.
Naturally, America's biggest fast-food chain wants in on the PSL action. McDonald's is now pouring Pumpkin Spice Lattes at select locations nationwide. The McCafe PSL offers a unique blend of cinnamon and pumpkin flavors, poured over 100% Arabica coffee with the customer's choice of whole or nonfat milk. The drink is the latest seasonal addition to the McDonald's McCafe menu, making an appearance for the first time after a three-year hiatus.
To stay competitive with coffee giants like Starbucks and Dunkin', McDonald's will also be offering an iced version of its PSL this year at select locations. Iced beverages are the cutting edge of the pumpkin spice market right now, with Starbucks' Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew having outsold its latte in 2020. Dunkin' has taken note and this year added an (identically named) Pumpkin' Cream Cold Brew to its own fall lineup.
The McCafe PSL first debuted in 2013. Entering an already crowded market, Mickey D's take on the popular fall beverage is solidly middle-of-the-road. At 310 calories and 44 grams of sugar, McCafe's is neither the healthiest PSL out there nor the unhealthiest one. Those titles belong, respectively, to Starbucks and Dunkin'.
The beverage launched on August 31, which makes Mickey D's a little late to the PSL game. Both Starbucks and Dunkin' got things going a couple of weeks sooner with earlier-than-ever launches. Dunkin' was the first to drop its fall lineup, on August 18, which ended up being a full week ahead of Starbucks' August 24 PSL launch. And it's Starbucks that's credited with the original launch of the first nationwide PSL all the way back in 2003. By 2007, Dunkin' had introduced a "pumpkin flavor swirl"—an all-purpose coffee syrup. More pumpkin innovation followed, with Pumpkin Latte in 2016 and a Signature Pumpkin Spice Latte last year. This year, the seasonal drink wars are heating up—Dunkin' and Starbucks are searching for the "next PSL," with both coffee chains currently testing new, apple-flavored beverages, including an Apple Crisp line at Starbucks and apple-flavored Refreshers at Dunkin'.
McDonald's, meanwhile, is keeping it simple with the McCafe PSL, available hot or cold.
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