By Valerie Whitney: Business Writer, March 13, 2008
ORMOND BEACH — Some things in life are constant.
For area resident Christie Bennett, it’s having a smoothie shake for lunch.
“I come every day. I love it,” Bennett said Tuesday while waiting for her favorite drink at the Smoothie King shop in Nova Shoppes, 175 S. Nova Road.
“I don’t think I did eat lunch” before discovering this shop about 18 months ago, she said.
Bennett is not alone in her choice. More and more people are turning away from traditional fast-food fare, such as burgers and fries, for what they feel is a healthier alternative — blended fruit drinks or smoothies.
Smoothies first became popular in this country in mid-1960s as part of the resurgence in macrobiotic vegetarianism, according to Dan Titus, director of the Juice and Smoothie Association. “Retail health restaurants literally sprouted up to meet the demand. One of the popular menu items was the fruit juice smoothie,” Titus stated in an article at Juciegallery.com.
Another article, at Fundinguniverse.com, suggested the idea dates back to the Orange Julius chain, which sold juice drinks with a smoothie consistency starting in the 1920s.
Either way, smoothies have evolved in the past two decades. Most initially did not have milk or frozen yogurt in them. “They were basically fruit, fruit juice and ice,” Titus said about the drinks, which were sold mostly at natural health-food chains and juice bars.
Smoothies today can be made from a combination of things, including vitamin supplements and even powder mixes. Stand-alone juice and smoothie shops market their products as meal replacements and or meal enhancements, according to Titus. Yogurt shops and convenience stores sell smoothies as dessert offerings, he said.
The Juice and Smoothie Association has a ranking system to assist consumers in defining the different kinds of smoothie products. A platinum smoothie, for example, is one that is made to order, using fresh ingredients, while a silver smoothie is one that’s made from a starter mix or other proprietary smoothie base, which uses 10 ingredients.
Titus said smoothies have become more mainstream. “They are en vogue now. Everybody has been jumping on the bandwagon,” he said in a telephone interview from California.
Jack In the Box Inc., a popular West Coast chain, announced plans last month to roll out a new smoothie line in April, which will be made from fruit juice and nonfat frozen yogurt. Taco Bell also is poised to introduce a line of smoothies and even McDonald’s is testing a line, according to a recent article in the Nation’s Restaurant News trade publication.
Other new entrants into the juice and smoothie business include national sandwich chains, yogurt companies and coffee shops. Many can be found in the food courts at shopping malls and, of course, there are the traditional health food stores.
Smoothies are now a $2.5 billion business in this country, Titus said. Juice and smoothie bars can be found on college campuses, in airports and generally anywhere people congregate.
“Jamba Juice is the number one (regional brand) on the West Coast and Smoothie King (a Louisiana-based chain) is the largest on the East Coast,” he said.
Tim Johnson is part of the franchise group that owns two of the three Smoothie King operations in Volusia County. Johnson said he become interested in the product after visiting the store in Daytona Beach, which is owned by another franchisee, where his nephew worked.
“I fell in love with the product,” Johnson said this week at his Ormond Beach Store. “My brothers and I had run a business before and we were looking for something to do,” he said.
Planet Smoothie, with 136 franchises including one in Orange City, is the third largest fresh fruit smoothie chain in the United States. The chain, which is owned by Atlanta-based Raving Brands, offers four categories of smoothies infused with vitamins and nutrients. They are the booster, fat burner, wellness and workout.
Planet Smoothie consumers also can add need-specific nutritional supplements to any smoothie with Planet Smoothie blasts, which are blends of vitamins and supplements.
Another chain that focuses on the frozen drinks is Destin-based Tropical Smoothie Cafe, which shops in DeLand and Port Orange.