Have you ever tried one of Starbucks’ smoothies? Me neither. Somehow, concoctions like “a nourishing blend of mocha flavored sauce, a whole banana, milk, whey protein and fiber powder, and ice” never appealed to me.
Perhaps this is why Starbucks is taking its blended beverage menu in a different direction: Smoothies spiked with syrups and nutritional powders are so 2008—the year Starbucks launched its Vivanno smoothies. The trendy smoothies of today are made from relatively unprocessed plant ingredients: Fresh fruits and vegetables and fresh pressed juice, maybe with some coconut milk, raw agave nectar, or chia seeds thrown in.
This trend appears to be the inspiration for the smoothie menu that Starbucks is rolling out in 4,300 stores on the West Coast in conjunction with green juice company Evolution Fresh and yogurt company Dannon. These smoothies “are made to order in three flavors including Sweet Greens, Strawberry and Mango Carrot, with the option to add fresh kale upon request,” according to Starbucks’ press release.
Even though the kale is optional, it’s the one feature that has garnered the most headlines. It certainly seems like a departure for Starbucks—a company known for the impressive collection of artificially flavored syrups on display in each store—to offer a beverage based on a fresh, highly perishable, and foodborne-disease-prone ingredient. Kale doesn’t scale, at least not as easily as the factory-made, prepackaged syrups and powders that are Starbucks’ bread and butter.
But if the company can make it work? More power to them. These smoothies probably won’t win over the health-conscious city-folk who regularly fork over $12 for a smoothie containing bee pollen, spirulina, and juice that is cold-pressed in front of their eyes. But there are plenty of people who are looking to eat more vegetables yet hate the mess and hassle of making their own smoothies. For them, a kale smoothie that tastes good and costs only $5.95, the current suggested retail price, might make a regular trip to Starbucks seem worthwhile.