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Marketing Insights: Smooth Operations

Smooth Operations


Call it health club meets coffee house. Call it a
beverage, a snack or a dessert. Call it the next big trend poised to
hit Canadian food service.

Call it health club meets coffee house. Call it a beverage, a snack or a dessert. Call it the next big trend poised to hit Canadian food service.

Call it very profitable.

Call it a smoothie and if you’ve been wondering if it makes sense to add it to your menu, chances are it does.

One of pizza’s great strengths as a menu item is its versatility. Health conscious or decadent, there’s a pizza to fit every consumer. Smoothies bring the same advantages to your operation since they are equally adept at altering their presentation. You may be hesitating to include smoothies on your menu because you think the price of entry is too high. After all, investing in new equipment can be a costly mistake if the product flops.

Fortunately, there’s a wide range of processing options as well, it’s simply a case of finding the best fit for you.

So what’s the difference between a smoothie and a slushie? Aren’t they the same thing?

“Not really,” confirms Marjorie Smith, regional manager of food service for Rich Products of Canada. “Slushies are typically water-based beverages made from pop or fruit juice. Smoothies are typically fruit based with a thickener such as milk, sherbet or a soy base.”

The genesis of the North American smoothie beverage can be traced to health clubs in the 1970s. Bodybuilders routinely bended frozen fruit with a milk base and various protein powders as a means of consuming the most muscle-building nutrition in one sitting.

Europeans have been enjoying frozen blended coffees for centuries and these beverages have only gained a foothold in the North American market over the
last decade. Much of the credit goes to Starbucks and Tim Hortons for effectively marketing a variety of innovative smoothies, escalating consumer awareness in the process.

Servings of frozen beverages in coffee houses were up 24 per cent in 2005 over the previous year. (Sysco Today, with data from NPD Crest and Starbucks).  OK, so coffee-based smoothies are a great summer alternative to a hot beverage. Smoothies don’t really move at other times of the year – right? Not exactly. If you think that smoothies are just for summer menus – think again.

“Smoothies are becoming more popular as a meal replacement” says Judi Saliba, director of national accounts for TFI Food Equipment Solutions. “Smoothies can really be anything you need them to be. Some fruit, milk or soy milk and protein powder make a great meal replacement for consumers who are on the run but still need a portable, healthy meal.”

Snacks, especially “p.m.” snacks are a growing segment and smoothies are a perfect fit. A study conducted by NPD group found that Canadians are increasingly replacing meals with snacks. NPD reports that snacks (defined as food and drink consumed between meals), accounted for more calories than breakfast, and about the same number of calories as lunch (2006 Eating Patterns in Canada).

The study indicates that from 2002 to 2006, the number of snacks consumed as meals by Canadians has increased by 500 million. The concern for many Canadians is that there aren’t many readily available healthy snack options. The study found that 40 per cent of the calories in snacks come from fats, oils and sweets. However, 55 per cent of those surveyed said they frequently check nutrition information labels in an attempt to make healthier snack choices.

The desire is there to make the right choices while eating on the run and a healthy offering of smoothies could just fill an unmet need. It’s not all just vitamins and healthy eating; smoothies can also walk a bit on the wild side too.

Smoothies are making inroads in the casual dining sector on the “adult beverage menu.”

“Casual dining venues such as Boston Pizza are doing some truly innovative frozen cocktails,” says Saliba. “It’s important to ensure you’re familiar with the proper procedure for adding the correct amount of alcohol. There are also a wide range of equipment options to ensure operators get a good even mix without necessarily having to spend enormous amounts of money on mixers. It’s a matter of pairing the right mixers with the operational needs.”

Milestones has created a number of frozen cocktails that have become signature items. The same recipes can be made without alcohol and marketed effectively on the children’s menu. Smoothies are equally at home on the dessert menu.

“Our chef has created some amazing dessert smoothie recipes by incorporating our concentrates and mixes with brownies or gourmet cookies and topping the item with some fruit drizzle,” reports Marjorie Smith.

“Depending on the ingredients, procedure and selling price, smoothies can be incredibly profitable,” says Saliba. The question is, will the market for smoothies continue to grow or is it already cresting?

The opportunity for future growth in the smoothie category is quite robust. Major category players in the U.S. such as Jamba Juice have escalated the smoothie segment to an estimated $1.6 to $2 billion (US) sector and Canada has only begun to see that movement.

“Canada is about 3 to 5 years behind the U.S.,” says Saliba. This bodes well for those operators wanting to tap into an emerging trend.

The single pizza slice has served our industry well in terms of capturing that afternoon snack sector and those who eat on the run. A great smoothie bundled with it would give you an innovative menu twist while boosting your cheque average and profitability.

Talk to those manufacturers who carry turnkey smoothie solutions. They can help you find the right product and equipment fit for your operational needs.

Give it some serious thought. It may just be time to make your menu really cool.•


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