Starbucks' Pumpkin Spice Latte returns to the menu as Dunkin', Panera unveil fall items

Beat the summer heat and say hello to fall — a few weeks early.

Starbucks' (SBUX) coveted Pumpkin Spice Latte — better known as a the "PSL" — is back on menus nationwide starting Tuesday, August 24th, joining other food chains in giving customers an early taste of autumn.

The Seattle-based coffee giant announced the return of the fall favorite, which features a combination of espresso, steamed milk with a blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and real pumpkin.

The signature drink debuted back in 2003 and, with more than 500 million Pumpkin Spice Lattes sold in all, Starbucks expects yet another successful return this fall. 

In fact, the Pumpkin Spice "platform" was a "catalyst" in the company's 2020 fourth quarter results, with restaurants grappling with COVID-19 era restrictions that sharply curbed in-store dining. In a nod to the huge popularity of cold drinks, Starbucks will also bring back the Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew, made with vanilla syrup and pumpkin cream (naturally). Last year, that item actually outsold the traditional, warm PSL.

In addition to the latte and cold brew, Starbucks is also unveiling bakery items like the Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffin and Pumpkin Scone, joining pumpkin bread that is available all-year-round. 

The shift to cold beverages, even during the crisp, autumn months, has become a massive selling point for Starbucks, and part of a larger consumer shift to cold beverages, regardless of the season. In the company's third quarter results, the cold category accounted for 74 percent of beverage sales, up 10 percentage points over the past two years.

Meanwhile, other fast food chains are ramping up their fall line up ahead of the autumnal equinox, which technically starts on September 22nd.

Just last week, Dunkin' aimed to get ahead of Starbucks with the release of its new Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew and a Pumpkin Spice Signature Latte, which its serving up with pumpkin-flavored coffee, donut, muffin and munchkins. 

Consumers can also expect Pepperidge Farm (CPB) to bring back its fall lineup to retailers including Target (TGT), Walmart (WMT) and Krogers (KR) this season. This includes Pumpkin Spice Milano Cookies, Pumpkin Spice Swirl Bread and Soft Baked Pumpkin Cheesecake Cookies will hit shelves in September. 

Dairy Queen (BRK-B) hopes to take a scoop out of the flurry of pumpkin spice competition with the re-introduction of its Pumpkin Pie Blizzard and Pumpkin Cookie Butter Shake. 

Samuel Adams (SAM) hopes customers will raise a glass to the change of season. The beverage giant is leading the pumpkin-inspired seasonal run in the beer industry with the re-introduction of its Jack-O Pumpkin Ale and its Sweater Weather Variety pack which includes OctoberFest, Jack-O, Boston Lager and a new flavor this season, the Festbier.

Customers are also waiting for the anticipated release of limited-edition Pumpkin Spice Cheerios (GIS) and return of Tim Hortons (QSR) U.S. Pumpkin Spice Line-Up, which is expected to debut on menus August 25th.

Meanwhile Panera hopes to step aside from the so-called "basic" pumpkin spice drink with its new Cinnamon Crunch Latte announced earlier this month. 

Brooke DiPalma is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter at @BrookeDiPalma or email her at [email protected]

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