This article is Part 2 of a two-part series. It reviews beverage trends as a backdrop for creating unique smoothie recipes. Part 1 addresses the strategy behind creating a unique smoothie.

When developing unique smoothies, an important backdrop is the larger set of beverage trends in the industry. These reflect what most customers are expecting from a smoothie – and you do not want to disappoint them.

So, even as you customize your recipes to your own unique audience, the broader context can be important to keep in mind.

Here are four of the most important trends in today’s smoothie market.

Trend #1: Smoothies with Purpose

For many customers, it’s not enough to drink a smoothie “just because.” Nowadays, smoothies need to provide certain “functional benefits,” which is one of the most significant trends to have affected the smoothie market in recent years.

One expert on the vanguard of the functional foods trend is Chris Webb, Senior Director of R&D at Smoothie King: “People are not just seeking healthy foods. They are looking for a combination of ingredients that will serve a tangible and specific purpose.”

Some functional food categories that are popular right now are immunity and nutrition, hydration, workout recovery, antioxidants, meal replacement, and energy, to mention just a few. When these categories are applied to smoothies (e.g., Smoothie King’s “Get Fit Blends” or “Stay Slim Blends”), it is not intended as a claim. Rather, it is a tag or label, a way of orienting consumers, giving people a reason to try this beverage as opposed to that one. In other words, the label helps people make sense of their options.

So, try giving your smoothies a purposeful name. Then, list upfront some ingredients that support that purpose. Your patrons will appreciate the effort.

Trend #2: Flavor Innovation

New flavors or flavor combinations are popular with customers right now.

One reason for that is that many health-conscious customers are looking to avoid high quantities of sugar and the related calorie content. They may seek alternative sweeteners, but another option is to replace sugar with interesting flavors or new combinations of flavors, like basil and strawberries or mango and chipotle. A well-conceived smoothie with innovative flavors can sufficiently entertain the palate so high amounts of sugar are not necessary.

Savory and tangy (e.g., ginger, elderberry, matcha, cayenne, etc.) is one direction in new flavor right now. Also trending are flavors associated with building immunity, such as turmeric, berry, citrus and ginger. Many flavorful ingredients bring with them additional health benefits, especially herbs and spices, many of which are high in antioxidants (e.g., cloves, turmeric, peppermint and cinnamon).

But when it comes to new flavors there are limits. It’s easy to overwhelm or turn off your customers. Therefore, proceed with moderation. One safe approach is pairing something familiar (e.g., strawberries or bananas) with something less familiar.

Cauliflower Hummus

Trend #3: Customization

Customers appreciate choices – the opportunity to customize their beverages to their specific dietary preferences, according to the trends. Customers may prefer options for plant-based or organic ingredients, protein supplements, or sugar alternatives.

In the case of made-to-order smoothies, however, customization can sometimes face operational limitations: How feasible are the customizable options? Can your staff handle them? Will they extend the wait time? Can you support the required inventory?

In other words, customization needs to occur within certain limits. A few points in particular to consider:

  • Every smoothie needs a workable ratio between solids and liquids. Otherwise, it may be hard to blend. A tricky point: low-sugar liquids may require more blending power than higher-sugar liquids.
  • Simpler recipes invite fewer complications. Try holding several ingredients constant while allowing for one set of variables. This approach allows for some customer choice without creating any difficulties. For example, hold the liquid constant, as well as two or three staple ingredients. Then, allow the customer to choose a “boost” (e.g., protein powder, bee pollen, etc.).
  • Keep a limited inventory of ingredients to protect your profitability. It’s not necessary to carry nine plant-based milks. Perhaps just two would be sufficient.

Trend #4: Permissibly Indulgent

Beverage customers want “permissibly indulgent” options, according to the trends. For many people, abstaining completely from what’s indulgent doesn’t work. One alternative is the middle-of-the-road diet that remains constant but not overly healthy. Another alternative is a very healthy diet followed by an indulgent break from that diet.

Therefore, providing different levels of indulgence may allow your customers to find what they’re looking for. That might be a frozen pumpkin latte with whipped cream. Or, it could be an oat-milk latte with a fat-free, sugar-free whipped topping that tastes decadent but is low-calorie.

Plant-based ice creams, which some brands now sell, may be useful as an ingredient. Or, special blending equipment, such as Vitamix’s Aerating Container, can transform the texture of beverages and toppings, enabling healthy ingredients to taste indulgent.