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CHICAGO -- Health-conscious Americans looking for fast and convenient meal alternatives have turned in large numbers to smoothies. According to a report by Mintel here, smoothie manufacturers pulled in over $2 billion last year from made-to-order and packaged products, an increase of more than 80 percent in the last five years.
There are now more than 4,000 retail locations in the United States where customers can buy smoothies. In Mintel's exclusive consumer research, more than half of respondents in the 18- to 34-year-old range said that they'd had a smoothie in the past month.
"Consumers are attracted to smoothies because they are seen as a healthier option to most sweets and on-the-go meals," said Mintel Reports director David Lockwood. "Now that the smoothie market is a proven success, companies are being pushed to the next level -- extreme differentiation. Similar to the coffee market, smoothie companies need to continue developing innovative flavors and additives to keep consumers engaged in the market, but also should consider expanding the menu, as some chains have done with sandwiches or coffee."
New products employ emerging flavors, including acai and green tea, and hybrids of smoothies with other types of drinks, while new nutrient infusions meet consumers' health needs. Further, manufacturers have kept pace with current food trends, using "all-natural," low-calorie, and other popular attributes to drive sales.
"The flavor combinations and possibilities are endless with the smoothie market," explained Lockwood. "With functional foods and beverages having a strong marketplace advantage, smoothies are in position to dominate the healthy beverages category. Smoothies are seen as a pleasant health treat, and this will continue to take the category far."
As opposed to yogurt drinks, 39 percent of Mintel respondents agreed or strongly agreed that "smoothies are healthier than drinks made with yogurt." In the same vein, over half of consumers agreed or strongly agreed that "smoothies taste better than yogurt drinks," with yogurts being preferred by only 15 percent of those polled.
Mintel is a global supplier of consumer, product, and media intelligence.