Holly Michaels is a smooth operator. A registered dietitian with a masters degree in human nutrition and dietetics who works as a marketing dietitian for Blendtec, Michaels knows the road to smoothie success. She has developed smoothie recipes, videos and employee demonstrations, using such cool ingredients as chia seeds, kale, mango and more. She tests smoothie recipes at least three times, and provides nutrient analysis. FM asked her a few questions about trends, ingredients and more.
Q: What are some major smoothie trends you’re seeing in terms of demographics?
A: Younger consumers are much more likely to purchase smoothies at restaurants than older consumers are. Other than taste, consumers are most likely to order smoothies because they're more refreshing or cooling than other drinks. The average consumer prefers a yogurt-based smoothie with strawberry flavor and is interested in added vitamins. Gender and income are not strong indicators of smoothie consumption, but males are slightly more likely to purchase smoothies and more affluent groups are also more likely to buy smoothies.
Q: How can you sneak vegetables into smoothies so kids will like them? Is adding apple or banana, for example, enough to disguise kale?
A: Fruit is a great way to mask the flavor of vegetables. Bananas have a particularly strong and unique flavor that can take over the flavor of many vegetables. Along with bananas, many other fruits such as peaches, pineapple, strawberries, raspberries and cantaloupe enhance the flavor of vegetable smoothies.
Q: How can you get kids interested in smoothies on the menu?
A: One method to get the children involved is to name the brightly colored smoothies such as calling a green smoothie with kale or spinach the Green Hulk Smoothie, or an orange smoothie with carrots the Orange Monster Smoothie. This makes the meal fun for children and they are more likely to accept it.
Q: Are some smoothies meant to be savory and taste like kale, for example? Does that appeal to adults, like a Bloody Mary flavor?
A: Some smoothies are meant to taste like the vegetables put in them. For example, when we taste kale in a smoothie, we assume the smoothie is healthy or good for us. As a marketing dietitian, I recommend preparing some meals in general (not just smoothies) that taste like fresh produce so we become familiar with the unique individual flavors of fresh vegetables. For customers who don’t eat that way regularly, or who don’t enjoy the stronger taste of some vegetables like kale, I recommend using other foods to improve the flavor (as in the kids’ smoothie tip above). People who eat kale on a regular basis are familiar with the taste and it becomes a preferred flavor and those kind of people would like a smoothie that tastes like kale.
Q: What are some common mistakes you see people make with smoothies?
A: Common mistakes I see with smoothie making include inadequate liquid. This makes the smoothie too thick. Not using enough ice or frozen fruit can make the smoothie too runny. Mixing flavors that don’t go well together can make the smoothie have an undesirable flavor. Another mistake I see is with whole juicing, if the drink is not consumed quickly, the fiber will separate and need to be remixed or shaken up to make the drink taste the way it was intended.
Q: Do you always need a base like yogurt or soy milk to get a creamy milkshake mouth feel? What else can you use?
A: Yogurt and soy milk do a nice job making a smoothie creamy; however, they are not the only ingredients that make a smoothie creamy. Bananas, mangos, avocados, chia seeds and cow milk also create a desirable smooth texture.
Q: What can you do with a blender besides make smoothies?
A: You can use a good blender for many uses other than smoothies: pancake batter, salsas, dips, hummus and spreads like natural peanut butter, even hot soups.
Q: Can you share a couple of your best smoothie recipes with us?
A: Yes. The Cantaloupe-Veggie Smoothie is just 77 calories per serving, and the Green Monster is one of the most refreshing smoothies that can appeal to everyone.