Smoothies have appeared on U.S. menus in one form or another since the 1960s, when the rise of macrobiotic vegetarianism led to the rise of retail health food shops and restaurants. This â€˜politically correct version of a shakeâ€™ became a menu staple by the 1990s and its place on restaurant menus was solidified.
What was once a simple preparation of fruit, fruit juice and ice is now viewed as anything from a healthy, on-the-go breakfast or meal replacement to a snack or dessert. Whether it is listed on the menu as a smoothie, frappÃ© or granita, it’s sought after by young and old, health-conscious and sweets-craving consumers alike.
Consumers enjoy smoothies as a welcome alternative to hot drinks in warmer months, and beverage shop operators see them as profit boosters all year Ã¢â‚¬Ëœround. Considering that operators can see 70-80% gross margin on 16 oz. smoothies, it’s not a surprise that this category is viewed as a real money-maker for those shops that decide to take it on. About 50 percent of all smoothie sales occur from May to the fall.
According to Mintel Menu Insights, top smoothie flavors in Q4 2009 included:
â‹… Strawberry & Banana
â‹… PiÃƒÂ±a Colada
May is National Strawberry Month, and because of a glut in supply, there are some great prices on strawberries right now. According to NPR, the January freeze in Florida delayed the growing season and that harvest has overlapped with California’s, making these little red gems one of the most affordable seasonal fruits on the market right now â€“ at less than half of their normal price per pound. If you can buy in bulk and want to freeze your supply, check out the link at howtodothings.com.
Whether you are making smoothies at home or at your coffee shop or restaurant, here are some tips for making great smoothies:
- Quality ingredients make all the difference between an average smoothie and a great one. Choose organic and raw whole product when you can. If organic is not available, raw or frozen product is a good alternative. In addition to the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants in many fruits and vegetables, using whole produce provides grams of fiber that are an important part of a healthy diet.
- Consider using both fruits and vegetables. Most Americans’ diets don’t include the five servings of fruits and vegetables recommended in the USDA Food Pyramid. Combining vegetables such as carrots, celery, avocado, cucumbers, beets or spinach with fruits in a smoothie makes it easier to get good nutrition in a tastier form. The flavors of fruits you choose often hide the taste of the vegetables they’re mixed with, so you get both good nutrition and good taste. For a list of some tasty fruit and vegetable blend recipes visit Helpwithcooking.com.
- Add a protein source for more nutritional benefit. A natural choice is yogurt, especially Greek yogurt, because of its lower fat and high protein content. Choose low or non-fat and sugar-free yogurts whenever possible â€“ the natural sugars in the fruits will provide all the sweetness needed. Supplements such as protein powder or other â€˜boostsâ€™ can be added.
- Choose your equipment carefully. Are you looking for a blender to mix ingredients easily, or a juicer which will extract the juice from whole fruits and vegetables? Professional-grade blending equipment for a shop is usually in the $400 to $600 range, so operators investing in a smoothie program could see a full payback in less than one summer. If you’re in the market to find the right equipment for your needs, do a little research before you buy.
Dole Foods has launched DoleÂ® Smoothie Starters,â„¢ pre-mixed, individually frozen fruit combos which are packed in convenient 7 oz. single-serve pouches. There are three varieties: Strawberry Banana, Mango Peach and Mixed Berry. Each pouch makes one smoothie when contents are blended with one cup of fruit juice. An easy-to-follow demonstration video is available here. Home foodies can create their own fruit blends by combining various Dole frozen fruits into a 7 oz. mixed portion and following the same simple instructions.
â€˜When consumers order a smoothie at restaurants using Dole Smoothie Starters, they see the real whole fruit going into the blender,” said Stuart McAllister, Director of Marketing â€“ Foodservice at Dole. “It’s a great visual cue that communicates freshness.”
Simply no time to make your own smoothies? Here are a few places to get your health-in-a-glass-to-go:
- Dallas-based Red Mango, the fastest-growing retailer of all-natural nonfat frozen yogurt, is expanding its menu with a new line of probiotic smoothies and made-to-order parfaits at participating locations nationwide. Smoothies are sweetened with zero-calorie Stevia for calorie-conscious meal replacements that are both delicious and nutritious.
- Smoothie King, the chain that is credited with associating the name â€˜smoothieâ€™ with the fruit-based beverage we know, opened its doors in the early 70s and now has more than 600 units across the U.S. The Louisiana-based company calls itself the â€˜Premier Smoothie Bar and Nutritional Lifestyle Centerâ€™ in the industry and offers its own line of multi-vitamins and supplements.
- Jamba Juice is probably best-known for its variety of â€˜boostsâ€™ which are added in to smoothies for additional nutritional benefits. Jamba Juice products contain no high-fructose corn syrup or trans fats and the menu offers non-gluten, non-dairy and vegan smoothie options.