Healthy, Instagram-mable and easy to enjoy on-the-go, smoothies and juices are a triple threat in the world of beverages. Tapping into these three consumer trends is key to the ongoing success of these colourful drinks, according to operators. “There’s the fun aspect of them,” says Kristen Kaethler, menu developer for Jugo Juice. “[Then] there’s the aesthetics of them, but we also get to punch it up with a little bit of health and wellness.”
Although operators say the Instagrammability of smoothies and juices has had a significant impact on their popularity, they agree quality beverages still prioritize ingredients and taste over camera-readiness. “When you’re using real, whole, beautiful, nutrient-dense fruit, that lends itself naturally to a platform like Instagram,” says Kate Taylor Martin, owner of Nutbar, a Toronto-based superfood snack café. “It’s a side benefit, but it’s never the intent to create food [just] for Instagram.”
Operators report smoothie and juice sales are highest in the summer, but a loyal following among health-conscious consumers makes for steady sales throughout the year. “They’re being enjoyed year-round,” says Taylor Martin. “But, as soon as the weather turns and there’s sunshine, our smoothie sales take the biggest jump.”
According to Dan Gelshteyn, owner of Toronto’s ELXR Juice Lab, the seasonality of smoothie and juice sales is tied more to shifts in the types of drinks consumers prefer. “Different products are popular at different times,” says Gelshteyn. “In the winter, people are looking for detoxification and are purchasing green juice to help with that. The fruit-forward and hydrating juices are more popular in the summer.”
While some might say juices have surpassed smoothies in popularity in recent years, Gelshteyn says the distinction between the two is about timing. “People find smoothies more filling,” says Gelshteyn, “but they feel the effects of juice a lot faster than smoothies, which have fibre and take longer to digest.” When consumers are looking for a meal or a snack, they often turn to smoothies; while juices tend to be the choice of those seeking a quick boost of nutrition and hydration.
Looking ahead to trends for 2019 and beyond, Fresh restaurants founder Ruth Tal predicts the use of medicinal mushrooms will continue to grow. “There was a day when people would think that was weird and now everyone is embracing it,” says Tal.
Taylor Martin recently introduced several varieties of medicinal mushrooms (chago, cordyceps, reishi and lion’s mane) as optional add-ons for Nutbar’s smoothies. “We’ve seen an increase in people both adding them and knowing about them,” she says.
Gelshteyn says ELXR is introducing a smoothie with a zucchini base in response to frequent requests for low-carb options.
“Especially in the U.S., a lot of places are starting to offer cauliflower and zucchini as a base,” says Gelshteyn, adding the trend is poised to make a bigger impact north of the border.
“Smoothies have become more exciting,” says Tal. “They’re not just about milk, banana and fruit anymore.”
Written by Jessica Huras