Now trending: 10 ways the smoothie is evolving in 2016

Feb. 3, 2016 | by Cherryh Cansler

Juice It Up! offers a variety of blended, raw-smoothie options.

The smoothie, first introduced as an indulgent treat that morphed into a drink for muscle heads to slam after a workout, has again evolved. Consumers not only view them as a dessert or a post workout snack, they now treat them as a quick, on-the-go meal replacement — a trend several fast casuals are embracing. In fact, smoothies now account for $5 billion a year with the foodservice industry serving more than 1 million a year, according to Technomic, which reports limited-service concepts represent about 68 percent of the volume.

"In recent years, we have seen a large demand for smoothies made with real, trustworthy ingredients," said Julie Owens, director of marketing at Blendtec, which recently predicted the year's Top 10 smoothie trends. "From hearty smoothie bowls to the addition of colorful vegetables, herbs and spices, we are seeing some exciting trends pop up for foodservice in 2016."

One of those trends is the smoothie bowl, which often contains superfood ingredients, including chia seeds, flax seeds, goji berries, cacao nibs and hemp protein. Bowls are slightly thicker and heartier than usual smoothies and are ideal for those seeking a fun and more filling meal replacement option, said Carol DeNembo, VP of business development at Juice It Up!, which offers 10 smoothie bowls topped with fresh bananas, granola and honey. To add even more health benefits, guests can order their favorite bowl with an extra dose of fiber, vitamins and minerals by blending in raw kale and spinach.

"Rising health consciousness coupled with our hectic on-the-go lifestyles have directly impacted the idea of smoothies as meal replacements in recent years," DeNembo said. "Consumers are becoming more educated and concerned about fat content, fried foods and salt content, especially when dining out, and are looking for healthy alternatives. In addition to health-focused, convenience and value are important factors that consumers consider when deciding what and where to eat. Smoothies and bowls address all of these areas. Additionally, smoothies are an excellent source for protein, which consumers are especially interested in as part of a complete diet," she said.

Meal-replacement smoothies are also popular at Tropical Smooth Café, which recently debuted its Live Better Smoothies, designed to address guests top nutritional needs, said Lisa Dimson, the brand's CMO. The new smoothies include:

  • The Chia Banana Boost, a drinkable breakfast that offers an energy lift with many ingredients including roasted banana, chia seeds, whole grain oats, and even the option to add peanut butter or strawberries.
  • Immune Blast smoothie, which consists of an orange, green apple and vitamin-C immune complexChia Banana Max smoothie, which aids the body in responding to exercise through whole grains, proteins, and fruits that are essential to building fat-burning muscle.
  • Detox Island Green smoothie, which features five whole fruits and vegetables, including fresh ginger, so the body may perform at its peak condition.

"We want people to see that when you put good nutrition in to your body, what you get out of it is a healthier, happier, more vibrant you," said Dimson, who noted most of the new offerings contain health boosters, another 2016 smoothie trend.

Health boosters can include protein, superfoods, chia seeds and açaí, according to Juice It UP!'s DeNembo, who said her guests can go a step further by choosing the 'make it green' option, which means employees will add raw spinach and kale to a smoothie, packing it with more fiber and a plethora of vitamins and minerals.

Globally focused

Another noteworthy smoothie trend is a focus on global influences, such as Asian and Mexican-inspired flavors. Planet Smoothie, located inside Manhattan's Penn Station, for example, serves the Gotcha Matcha Raz, featuring matcha green tea, raspberries and frozen yogurt.

Horchata — a traditional Spanish drink made with rice, nuts and almond milk —  and Lassi, a blend of yogurt, water, spices and fruit drank in India, are two other global flavors that will soon show up in smoothies, according to Blendtec's predictions.

"With 900,000 people coming through Penn Station each day, we have to be ahead of smoothie trends to meet consumers' demands," said Nikki Kaplan, owner of Planet Smoothie. "Experimenting with new ingredients, such as natural peanut butter or matcha green tea in our smoothies keeps our business booming and our customers on their toes."

Here are the 10 smoothie trends for this year:

  1. Build-your-own: Smoothie bar concepts that allow customers to customize drinks for a 'Chipotle-style' dining experience are seeing huge success.
  2. Health boosters: Ingredients such as protein, superfoods and heathy fats, transform a regular smoothie from a typical snack into a functional, tasty supplement.
  3. Smoothie meals:These smoothies often contain superfood ingredients and beneficial additives to keep customers feeling sustained all day long.
  4. Smoothie bowls: Smoothie bowls are thicker than traditional smoothies with added ice, frozen fruits and vegetables, protein powders and healthy fats.
  5. Sugar alternatives: As consumers continue to look for ways to add functional ingredients, sugar alternatives are also becoming increasingly popular.
  6. Colorful veggies: Consumers are looking beyond traditional greens in smoothies, making veggies such as beets, carrots, pumpkin and cabbage poised to take off.
  7. Global inspiration: Global influences that have transformed the food culture are now making their way into beverages with matcha, horchata and lassi leading the way.
  8. Spices and herbs: The use of culinary herbs enhance smoothies with bold flavors, and spices add a warm and spicy kick to cool concoctions.
  9. Low-profile liquids: Liquids beyond dairy milk and fruit juice are gaining popularity in the smoothie segment.
  10. Adult smoothies: These drinks are smoothies with one extra ingredient — alcohol.

Topics: Coffee / Specialty Beverages, Trends / Statistics


Cherryh Cansler / Before joining Networld Media Group as director of Editorial, where she oversees Networld Media Group's nine B2B publications, Cherryh Cansler served as Content Specialist at Barkley ad agency in Kansas City. Throughout her 17-year career as a journalist, she's written about a variety of topics, ranging from the restaurant industry and technology to health and fitness. Her byline has appeared in a number of newspapers, magazines and websites, including Forbes, The Kansas City Star and American Fitness magazine. She also serves as the managing editor for FastCasual.com.
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