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Kidding Around: Pumpkin spice, whyfore art thou?

Pumpkin spice is a marketing triumph

I love pumpkin pie. My mother’s pumpkin pie was a taste delight, and with a light sprinkling of salt across the top, it was a flavour explosion.

And that was just what the pies for family tasted like. I sometimes wonder what the best of those pies, the ones too good to be served to family and kept for visitors, tasted like.

I’ll never know now, but one thing I do know is pumpkin spice had nothing to do with their flavour.

It’s not even a real spice. Like poultry spice or seasoning salt, it’s a collection of spices that remind you vaguely of pumpkin pie, just without an honest name. After all, pumpkins are probably the only thing that pumpkin spice isn’t used on. There are pumpkin spice lattes, lip balm, malted milk balls and Swiss Miss Hot Chocolate (now there’s an abomination if I ever heard of one). There’s even pumpkin spice-flavoured Spam.


Deceptive names are nothing new. Calling something that it isn’t is as common as calling huge muscular guys “Tiny.”

Anyways, enough mental wandering. Pumpkin Spice is composed of cinnamon, cloves and a few other spices. Taken by themselves, they’re all very useful, tasty additions to food. Taken together, and used in everything under the sun, they’re an abomination. I mean, pumpkin spice lip balm?


I tried hard to find other examples of the pumpkin spice phenomenon, but kind of failed. The closest I came was Han Solo’s reference to parsecs in Star Wars, as in the Millenium Falcon is the ship that “made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs.”

A parsec refers to distance, not time. However, that never caught on like pumpkin spice did and one of the later movies explained the dichotomy out of existence. I guess Han just didn’t have access to as good a publicity company.

Because for all that it isn’t, pumpkin spice certainly is a marketing triumph. I mean, what else could induce Werthers’ to introduce a pumpkin spice flavour?


And if it wasn’t enough that marketing has humans swilling down pumpkin spice like the supply is running out, we’re spreading it to our pets, too.

Well, at least to dogs. A quick google came up with lots of results for dogs, but none for cats. Which stands to reason, since cats are smart animals.

So cats are missing out on pumpkin spice collars, cookies and cake mixes. There is even pumpkin spice shampoo for dogs.


For all the laws we have around truth in advertising, when it comes down to it, people don’t seem to care. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have the British delicacy, spotted dick, which thankfully has nothing to do with its name (think steamed pudding with currants). The Scots should be commended though. Their blood pudding is indeed made with blood.

Steve Kidd
Assistant Regional editor, Black Press
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