Refreshing beverage menus with smoothies and juice

By Kristin Menas

Although smoothies and juices are typically associated with summer, these non-alcoholic options are beginning to carve out a significant place on beverage menus year-round.

According to Technomic data, mentions of fruit smoothies on Canadian menus have increased by four per cent in the latest two-year period, compared to a 3.3-per-cent increase in juice mentions during that same timeframe. Research also shows that consumers expect to purchase more smoothies and juices from restaurants in the coming years. This should signal to operators that it is time to re-examine beverage menus.

For operators looking to add smoothies and juice to menus, it’s important to keep up with the latest trends. Here are the leading smoothie and juice innovations on today’s menus.

Smoothies

Drinkable meals

In the past year, operators have “made over” smoothies to be more functional and serve as more than just refreshments. Many of these cold blended beverages are being prepared and positioned as filling, nutritious meal replacements. Rather than just quenching thirst, smoothies are serving up nutritional value comparable to that of a meal. Operators are bolstering smoothies with everything from daily servings of fruits and veggies to alternative proteins like whey protein powder and hemp hearts.

Chains like Booster Juice have already jumped on this bandwagon, offering its Hemp Super Booster and Whey Protein Super Booster as possible mix-ins for any of its smoothies. These substantial smoothies give busy consumers the benefits of an entire meal with the convenience of a handheld, drinkable option.

Food that heals

Similarly, smoothies can be designed to serve a variety of specific purposes, such as increasing energy, aiding in weight loss, boosting immunity and regulating blood sugars. At Jugo Juice, the chain has promoted several of its smoothies as an ideal option for particular scenarios, such as for battling colds or pre-/post-workouts or runs.

Take-away: Calling a smoothie or juice “healthy,” isn’t enough anymore. Consumers want to know specifically how these smoothies will assist them in their day-to-day life.

Juice

Cold pressed

Until recently, juice was often thought of as a kids’ drink or a beverage reserved for breakfast, but that attitude is shifting. Technomic data now shows that 45 per cent of consumers expect to purchase fresh-squeezed juice by the glass more often by 2016. Another 41 per cent plan to purchase vegetable juice more often. These changing views can be linked to the hyper-popular juicing trend and the perception of juice as a health-oriented beverage. As a result, operators and retailers are taking the trend further, going beyond traditional preparations like fresh-squeezed.

Cold-pressed juices, for example, are all the rage. Cold-pressed juicers extract juice from fruits and vegetables by pressing and grinding the produce without adding heat. It’s believed that juices made using this process retain more nutrients because the produce isn’t shredded. While many of these dense juices were initially introduced as part of the “juice cleanse” trend, more and more people are purchasing juice as an occasional healthy alternative to more indulgent beverages rather than as part of a restricted diet. Just this year, Liquid Nutrition launched its own proprietary brand of bottled organic cold-pressed juices as a way to attract new customers that value convenience and health.

Steamed

Steaming is a lesser-known way of providing high-quality fresh juice, but is becoming more prevalent at restaurants. Steam juicing involves applying the gentle heat from steam directly to fruit, gathering the juice and tapping it off into bottles. The pasteurized juice produced from this method is filtered and natural. This method of juicing is more about the flavour rather than nutrition, as the process is known to eliminate some of the ingredients’ nutrients. Blenz Coffee offers its version of steamed juice with its customizable Steamed Juice Teas, each made with steamed juice rather than milk.

Flavour trends

Current favourites

Technomic recently polled consumers on the most appealing flavours for smoothies or fresh juices offered at restaurants. Some of the leading flavours include tropical, strawberry and banana. Often, these flavours are used in various combinations, such as the ever-popular strawberry-banana blend. The three leading fruit smoothie flavours on Canadian restaurant menus are strawberry, banana and mango.

Top juice varieties on menus are apple, orange, cranberry and pineapple.

Take-away:  Operators should consider the popularity of classic flavours like strawberry or apple, and tropical flavours like mango or pineapple when introducing new smoothies and juices.

Up-and-coming

Operators familiar with juice and smoothie menu development may want to experiment with less traditional flavour varieties. Blackberry and lemon are among the fastest-growing smoothie flavours on menus. In juice, fastest-growing flavours include ginger, lemon and mango. Incorporating these ingredients into beverages could give operators an early jump on upcoming flavour trends before they become mainstream.

Juices and smoothies continue to gain momentum at restaurants and should not be overlooked by operators. These cold beverages are at the forefront of menu innovation and it will be interesting to see where operators take it from here. Expect to see new preparations, healthy mix-ins and bold flavours over the next year.


About the author:

Kristin Menas is the Associate Editor, Canada & Adult Beverage at Technomic Inc. in Chicago. Technomic provides clients with the facts, insights and consulting support they need to enhance their business strategies, decisions and results. Its services include publications and digital products, as well as proprietary studies and ongoing research on all aspects of the food industry. For more information, visit www.technomic.com.

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