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Beverage

Next-gen smoothies boost beverage menus

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Smoothies are a menu classic, and their popularity is continuing to grow. In fact, according to Technomic’s 2018 Future of LSR report, smoothie mentions are up 6% on menus at quick-service restaurants, and at fast-casual restaurants, they’re up a whopping 40%.

But as consumers continue to seek out portable, healthful options, operators are taking them to the next level. The most popular ingredients in smoothies are unsurprising—banana, strawberry, mango, juice and yogurt, according to Technomic’s MenuMonitor—but there are plenty of ways restaurants are innovating on these classic smoothie options. And while smoothies are classically thought of as a breakfast item, new ingredients and consumer behavior shifts are including them in additional dayparts.

Offering afternoon pick-me-ups

Smoothies are great for grabbing breakfast on-the-go, and they offer a sought-after boost of energy and health with produce or superfood ingredients. But according to Technomic’s2018 Snacking report, more and more people order smoothies as afternoon snacks. In fact, 69% of consumers who order smoothies as snacks do so in the afternoon.

Despite those numbers, smoothies are still often seen as a morning beverage. For operators to boost interest in afternoon smoothie sales, offering indulgent ingredients could help consumers view smoothies as more of a treat and less of a breakfast option. For instance, a banana smoothie can get a sweet update with cocoa powder. Additional options can include offering coffee smoothies, like a chocolate banana cold-brew smoothie, to entice those who want a pick-me-up. And, since smoothies have a health halo, consumers feel better about indulging and may be more likely to buy them.

Including trending ingredients and highlight health

According to MenuMonitor, some of the trending ingredients in smoothies include chia seeds, almond milk, cranberry juice, ginger and coconut water. These healthy ingredients could be an indication that consumers are looking for more functional beverages as busy lifestyles allow less and less time for sit-down meals. According to Technomic’s recent Beverage report, many consumers say they are more likely to purchase beverages if they offer health or functional benefits. For instance, 54% say they are more likely to buy drinks that support their immune system, 51% say so about stress-relieving drinks, and 50% say so about drinks that are antioxidant rich. For operators who want to reel in more smoothie sales, communicating any potential health benefits can be key.

Simplifying smoothie production

Despite the fact that smoothies are growing in popularity and usage occasion, many operators still balk at putting them on their menu because of the time, hassle and mess of making them.  However, there are new options available to make smoothies quickly and easily. F’real’s behind-the-counter blender option is a good example of a program that can easily create speed-scratch, customizable smoothies.  Adding a small countertop ingredient holder for boosts, seeds and other add-ins also enables fast and easy customization.

For operators looking to update their smoothie game, the answer is easier than it might seem. By offering more indulgent or afternoon-specific options as a pick-me-up for that post-lunch lull, as well as highlighting health benefits of certain trending ingredients, operators can enjoy the benefits of offering exactly what customers are looking for. And with the right blending system it can be done without adding much extra in the way of labor.

This post is sponsored by f’real foods

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