Dukes, Starbucks’ director of espresso Americas, was tasked with coming up with a killer seasonal espresso beverage for the coffee giant in 2003. What started with Dukes and his team alternating bites of pumpkin pie with sips of espresso has now become the chain’s best-selling seasonal drink and the subject of myriad pop culture
memes, millions of social media posts and a barrage of copycats.
Since then, Starbucks has sold more than 350 million Pumpkin Spice Lattes in 50 counties, according to company data.
“Within the first week of the market test, we knew we had a winner,” Dukes said in Starbucks marketing materials. “Back then, we would call store managers on the phone to see how a new beverage was doing, and you could hear the excitement in their voices. … Pumpkin Spice Latte has become more than just a beverage. It has become a harbinger of the season.”