McDonald's Is Going to Beat Starbucks to the Pumpkin Spice Punch

By Mike Pomranz |
McDonald's, PSL, pumkin spice latte, latte

© McDonald's

It’s only the second week in August, but the pumpkin spice latte wars are already heating up faster than an espresso machine getting ready to make a pumpkin spice latte.

Obviously, the king of the PSL is Starbucks who claims to have invented the fall seasonal beverage in 2003. Starbucks’ take on the drink has since reached cult status, repeatedly proving to be one of the brand’s bestsellers year in and year out. Because of its popularity, the coffee chain has often been a bit coy about the annual return of the product, building anticipation by letting release dates slip deeper into September. For instance, last year, PSLs didn’t hit locations nationwide until September 8 – nearly a week later than the year before (and two weeks later than in 2014). The announcement of the release date was slightly later last year too – happening around August 19.

Understanding that people are chomping at the bit to get all the PSL info they can, this year, McDonald’s decided to make a bit of a power play. The massive burger chain announced this week (well before the typical Starbucks announcement date) that it would be reintroducing its own take on a PSL, the McCafe Pumpkin Spice Latte, to locations nationwide for the first time since its debut in 2013. Not only have they beaten Starbucks to the PSL punch with their announcement, MickeyD’s has also chosen August 31 as the arrival date of its McCafe-branded PSL knockoff – meaning its very likely that McDonald’s caffeinated pumpkin drink could be in people’s hands before the Starbucks’ version.

It’s doubtful Starbucks’ diehards will really be satiated by a non-‘Bucks PSL. But it will be interesting to see if McDonald’s move has any sort of repercussion. Will it force Starbucks’ hand, leading them to be more forthright about their PSL plans in the future? Or could it possibly dilute the power of the PSL altogether by tempering some of that anxious anticipation latte lovers have each year?


At the very least, if you have absolutely no patience when it comes to drinking whatever sort of Pumpkin Spice Latte you can get your hands on, you can mark August 31 down on your calendar until Starbucks says otherwise. 


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