Does pumpkin spice entail everything nice? It’s in the works at least for some popular chains.

Tuesday marked the official return of Starbucks’ famed fall treat—The Pumpkin Spice Latte.

Despite making headlines with a “secretive” week-early release campaign via Tumblr, the real news has been recently announced changes to the classic recipe:

A little less caramel coloring, a little more real pumpkin

Starbucks proclaimed this a spicy season of firsts, as it’s rolling out a revised recipe in response to customer demand. Featuring real pumpkin puree and eliminating all caramel coloring, the beloved beverage’s updated ingredient list is the chain’s clear effort to recuperate a more responsible image following previous online fallout.

Backlash largely began last year when controversial lifestyle blogger Vani Hari (A.K.A. “Food Babe”) called out the coffee chain for its cast of potentially “hazardous” characters within the drink.

As part of her quest to expose what comprises the things we eat and drink, Hari first criticized Starbucks for its general “lack of transparency” regarding her ingredient information request. After several back-and-forth exchanges with customer service, various shop employees, corporate contacts and a PR representative, she published the “shady” findings.

PSL: Exposed via
PSL: Exposed – via

Filled with artificial flavors, GMO-infused milk, massive amounts of sugar, possibly High Fructose Corn Syrup, a double dose of Class IV Caramel Color (the supposedly “most harmful” of four levels) and absolutely no real pumpkin, the PSL’s true identity was revealed.

With health and harvest mellows equally harshed, Hari concluded the post with a full-on call to action.  Urging Starbucks to “stop putting toxic chemicals” into its Pumpkin Spice Lattes, she encouraged readers to do the same via social media pages, contacting the chain’s customer service department, signing an anti-GMO petition and—like any social media mogul—of course sharing the blog.

With more than 1 million Facebook fans and nearly 93,000 Twitter followers, there’s no denying Food Babe lead some form of change-focused charge.

Though it seems the recipe revamp has been underway for some time, as an update to the blog post indicates Starbucks was working to remove the Class IV Caramel Coloring since at least April.

In addition to casting the company into a more responsible and culturally caring light, the revisions are in total vogue with recent fast-casual dining trends to reduce/eliminate artificial ingredients.

This season Panera Bread also announced its own “clean” Pumpkin Spice Latte, free of artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners and preservatives. Calling it simply a “step further”, Panera made sure to mention their drink version has always included real pumpkin and never artificial caramel coloring.

Also a dig? Most likely.

Whether out of genuine quality concerns or shallow desires to rehabilitate public image, Starbucks is regaining control of their own narrative. Taking customer feedback to heart and responsive action in a practical, non-petty and seemingly sincere fashion, it’s turning the once-potential crisis into a harvest gold mine.

Time will tell what else the PSL has up his cardboard sleeve; At least we can sip our sass-laden lattes for the cause.

Caffeinated, cool and clearly ready for the season via the official PSL Tumblr
Caffeinated, cool and clearly ready for the season – via the official PSL Tumblr

Follow The PSL on Twitter: @TheRealPSL

(Featured image via The official PSL Tumblr)