Smoothie Trends

Strawberry Smoothie made from a Taylor Freezer Frozen Beverage MachineSmoothie Selling Opportunities

Smoothies: Stirring up a tasty trend

According to recent data, more than 4.3 billion smoothies were served at commercial restaurants last year alone – And that’s not counting the smoothies served in non-commercial locations like schools, colleges and universities. What is driving this category? Mintel recently reported:  "Now that the smoothie market is a proven success, companies are being pushed to the next level -- extreme differentiation. Similar to the coffee market, smoothie companies need to continue developing innovative flavors and additives to keep consumers engaged in the market.” Indeed, the hottest new trends in smoothies showcase efforts to differentiate and cut through the clutter.

The hottest smoothie trends can be grouped into several distinct categories:

  • Super Smoothies: Smoothies made with antioxidant-rich “superfruits”, like açaí berries, goji berries, pomegranates, blueberries and cranberries (or a combination of several superfruits) are among the top flavors in smoothie operations.

  • Taste of the Tropics: Tropical flavors, especially those with a Latin influence, like mango, guava, pineapple and papaya are in demand among today’s consumers who prefer a tangy and zesty flavor profile.

  • Tea-Time: Tea-flavored smoothies like cranberry flavored green tea or chai tea offer the best of both worlds, illustrating the popularity of teas and smoothies.

  • Vegging Out:  More and more, people are looking for easy and delicious ways to incorporate vegetables into their diet. Many smoothie operations offer varieties made with vegetables like carrots, celery or vegetable-based juices that pair well with certain “neutral” fruits, like apples and pears.

  • Herbs: Flavorful herbs like mint, lemon verbena and even basil are cropping up as a healthy trend, bringing new and distinct flavor profiles to the smoothie craze. Other popular herbal ingredients include jasmine, lemongrass and wheatgrass.

  • Smoothies-Plus: Nutritional enhancements such as protein powders and vitamins are a way for smoothie purveyors to boost their own sales and help customers bolster their intake of nutrients. Some chains offer specific additions like probiotics and amino acids, or more general add-ons like “immunity” and “energy.”

  • Craving Chocolate: Chocolate milkshakes have been around forever, but now chocolate smoothies are popping up as a new trend at smoothie chains nationwide. These menu additions offer a sugary respite for consumers’ with an extra sweet, sweet tooth.

1 The NPD Group/CREST®, YE Dec.’09; ReCount®, Fall 2009 release

Smoothies make headlinesSmoothies make headlines

Featured as a top trend in QSR’s Smart Chain Distinct Drinks, smoothies continue to make headlines for both their operator and consumer benefits. Compared to many restaurant food items, smoothies have a higher profit margin and are often consumed at off-peak times, like afternoon or mid-morning dayparts. Additionally, operators have seen a shift in consumer habits, with many customers entering the restaurant with the sole intent to purchase a smoothie – and nothing else. And smoothies boast benefits for consumers too – including convenience, health and in some cases, indulgence.

Big Profits usinf Taylor Freezer Soft Serve EquipmentSmoothies mean big business

According to QSR, in the last two years, made-to-order smoothies have become a big business in the United States, raking in more than $2 billion each year. While smoothies are often thought of as a breakfast player, their purchases frequently occur at off-peak hours which help to even out operator sales throughout the day. QSR reports that two hot trends have initiated the growth of the smoothie category, including the push to eat more fruit and the desire to live a healthier lifestyle.

McDonald’s launches smoothies nationwide using Taylor Freezer EquipmentMcDonald’s launches smoothies nationwide

McDonald’s added smoothies to their menu in mid-July, with aspirations to amp up the entire smoothie category. According to the Wall Street Journal, “McDonald's presence alone could boost the entire smoothie market, measured by the research firm Mintel at $2.5 billion in 2007, the most recent year available, something the company is setting out to do. That could potentially prove a boost to smoothie players like Jamba Juice Inc., Starbucks Corp. and Panera Bread Co.” In comparison to other top smoothie chains, McDonald’s will hang their hat on the value of their product, at just $2.29 for a 12 ounce smoothie.

Capture a new audience with breakfast for dinner!

The Los Angeles Times reports that offering breakfast for dinner can be a fun way to switch up an otherwise boring meal routine. Breakfast foods can often be prepared much faster than traditional dinner dishes and made from more natural ingredients that can be easier to eat and digest.

Fro-yo goes smoothie

In June, the frozen yogurt chain Red Mango, rolled out a new line of smoothies. The launch was strategically developed to help differentiate Red Mango from the increasingly popular frozen yogurt market, as well as to compete with big smoothie chains. Newly rebranded as “Red Mango Yogurt & Smoothies,” the frozen yogurt franchise continues to focus its efforts on health through the development of smoothie recipes that incorporate the sweetener stevia, as opposed to other artificial additives.

Smooth sailing for smoothie competitors

According to CSP’s trend piece, “A Stake in Smoothies,” the launch of McDonald’s line of smoothies has not threatened other major smoothie chain operators; rather it has brought life and awareness to the category, similar to the way the launch of McCafé coffee drinks boosted sales across the entire category of espresso-based beverages.

World Flavors -Popularity of global flavors expand the possibilities for smoothies

As the smoothie market continues to evolve, it’s no surprise that it’s not a vanilla world anymore. Beyond basic favorite varieties like berry and banana, operators are finding success with smoothie flavors that reflect the greater marketplace, including interest in authentic ethnic flavors.

Ethnic-inspired smoothies aren’t limited to popular Asian flavors like chai tea, green tea or coconut milk. Latin flavors can extend the appeal of a smoothie menu, both among those who have a Hispanic background and those who enjoy the flavors of cuisine from Central and South America.

There are plenty of Latin flavors to choose from that work well in smoothie formulations. Fruits like mango, papaya, lime and guava, for example, are already ingredients in many smoothie varieties today and can be successful for providers looking to differentiate their business. Other inspiration can come from the villages and cities in Mexico, where thick, milk-based drinks, similar to smoothies are a common part of people’s diets.
Beyond Asia and Latin America, another emerging area of global influence, in both food and drink, comes from Southeast Asia, India and the Middle East. One example is Badam Keer, a milk-based dessert drink made with ground almonds cooked with milk and sugar. Although a smoothie operator may not whip up an authentic recipe for Badam Keer, creating a smoothie with almond flavor and noting its Indian inspiration may make their menu current and intriguing.

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