What were smoothies originally called?

Smoothies have become a popular and refreshing drink in recent years, with many grocery stores, juice bars, and coffee shops offering a wide array of smoothie options. But where did the concept of blended fruit drinks originate? What were smoothies called before they acquired their current name?

The Origins of Blended Fruit Drinks

The basic idea of mixing fruits with liquids like milk or water has existed for centuries across many cultures. However, the specific origins of smoothies as we know them today can be traced back to the 1930s in the United States.

In the 1930s, health food stores and “healthatoriums” were growing in popularity in the US. These establishments offered a variety of natural, unprocessed foods as well as nutritional supplements and health tonics. Some health food vendors began experimenting with making blended drinks using raw fruits and vegetables along with milk, juice, or water.

These early smoothie-like concoctions were sometimes called “fruit froths” or “vegetable whips”. They were made using manual blenders, often consisting of a jar with a plunger apparatus. The blending process was much slower than modern electric blenders. Nonetheless, these drinks provided a thick, smooth texture that customers enjoyed.

In the late 1930s to early 1940s, health food stores and restaurants in Southern California really pioneered the making of blended fruit and vegetable beverages. Places like the Willow Lake Health Food Store near Los Angeles, which opened in 1939, featured items like blended carrot juice on their menus. These pre-smoothie drinks became popular among California’s health and fitness enthusiasts.

The Rise of “Smoothies”

The actual use and popularity of the term “smoothie” emerged in the 1960s and 70s. In 1973, the Steve Kuhnau founded a small smoothie shop called Smoothie King in Kenner, Louisiana. They made blended fruit drinks using a commercial blender produced by Oster. Kuhnau reportedly came up with the smoothie concept after seeing blended orange juice on a trip to Trinidad.

By the late 1970s, other smoothie shops were popping up, often associated with the rising popularity of health food stores. For example, in 1977, Ella Helfrich opened the Original Smoothie shop in New York City. She purchased commercial blenders from Oster and other companies to make blended fruit and vegetable beverages for her customers.

The word “smoothie” may have been influenced by “smooth,” referring to the drink’s creamy thick texture despite containing only fruits and/or vegetables. The use of the “ie” or “y” suffix also connoted something small, sweet and child-friendly. Thus, while early smoothie-like beverages had various names, “smoothie” emerged as the common term used.

Smoothies Go Mainstream

During the 1990s and 2000s, smoothies rapidly expanded from small health food stores to become an immensely popular mainstream beverage. Several developments contributed to this growth:

  • Rising interest in health and nutrition, including greater consumption of fruits and vegetables.
  • Advances in blender technology enabling faster and more convenient blending.
  • The trend toward grab-and-go convenience foods and drinks.
  • Successful marketing presenting smoothies as a healthy meal substitute.

Major chains like Jamba Juice, which was founded in 1990, began popping up across the country. Smoothies also became available at coffee shops, juice bars, and even in many fast food restaurants. What started as a niche health drink became a huge commercial success and a billion dollar industry.

Unique Smoothie Names and Origins

As smoothies surged in popularity, companies came up with unique names for their smoothie flavors. Here are some interesting examples:

Green Goddess

A green smoothie containing leafy greens like spinach or kale plus fruits like mango or pineapple. The “Green Goddess” name resembles the title of a classic 1930s play. It evokes the sense of something healthy and nourishing.

Orange Julius

This classic orange smoothie drink originated in 1926 and was named after founder Julius Freed. The creamy frozen orange juice drink was once a mall staple. The name cleverly combines orange flavor with the founder’s name.

Pink Flamingo

A pink-colored smoothie, often containing strawberries and banana. The fun name makes people think of tropical vacations and the bright pink feathers of flamingos.

Peanut Paradise

Contains peanut butter plus banana and vanilla. The “paradise” in the name presents peanut butter as an exotic, luxurious ingredient making the smoothie a blissful treat.

Mango Tango

Mango smoothies were quite popular as the smoothie trend grew. The “Tango” part of the name suggests the drink provides an invigorating, dance-inducing energy boost.


Features raspberry flavor, sometimes paired with strawberry. The name “Razzmatazz” is slang conveying excitement, similar to words like razzle dazzle. This suggests a smoothie bursting with lively fruit flavor.

Key Events in Smoothie History

Here is a timeline highlighting pivotal moments in the development of smoothies:

Year Event
1930s Blended fruit drinks emerge at health food stores, sometimes called “fruit froths” or “vegetable whips”
1939 Willow Lake Health Food Store opens in Los Angeles, selling pre-smoothie blended drinks
1960s-70s Term “smoothie” emerges to describe blended fruit + liquid drinks
1973 Steve Kuhnau founds Smoothie King in Louisiana
1977 Original Smoothie shop opens in New York City
1980s-90s Smoothies gain popularity across the US
1990 Jamba Juice founded and begins massive expansion
2000s Smoothies become wildly popular and available everywhere

Smoothie Culture and Trends

Smoothies have come a long way from obscure health beverages to an iconic part of mainstream food culture. Here are some interesting aspects of current smoothie culture:

Focus on Nutrition

Smoothies are now commonly promoted as an exceptionally healthy and nutritious food option. Companies emphasize “superfood” ingredients with vitamins, minerals, protein, antioxidants, etc. terms like “detox,” “energy,” or “immunity” are often found in smoothie names.

Creative Ingredients

Food trends like avocado, coconut, acai, ginger, turmeric, matcha, and probiotics have made their way into many smoothie recipes. Blends of fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, and “boosts” provide boundless options.

Meal Replacement

The substantial, filling quality of a nutrition-packed smoothie makes it an ideal quick meal on the go. Many consumers substitute a smoothie for breakfast or lunch. Terms like “protein,” “fuel,” or “sustained energy” convey a smoothie’s meal-like attributes.

Lifestyle Product

Smoothies now epitomize certain modern, healthy lifestyles centered around fitness, proper nutrition, and trendy diets. Drinking smoothies signals being disciplined, active, and “taking care of yourself.”


Smoothie shops thrive on letting patrons build their own customized smoothie combination. This engages customers in the experience and allows nearly endless variations to suit any taste or dietary need.

The Future of Smoothies

Smoothies have certainly not reached their peak. Here are some possible directions for the continued evolution of smoothies:

  • More creative, unexpected ingredients like spices, herbs, roots, and flowers.
  • Expanding from fruits and veggies into smoothies featuring whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
  • Smoothies as a delivery system for functional supplements like collagen, prebiotics, neurotransmitters, etc.
  • Growing popularity of smoothie bowls as a crossover between smoothies and oatmeal bowls.
  • Continued focus on gut health with probiotic, anti-inflammatory smoothies.
  • Use of smoothies as sport nutrition products for serious athletes.
  • Boozy, alcoholic smoothie creations for adults.

While smoothies will never replace whole fruits and vegetables, they provide an easy way for people to conveniently consume more diverse and concentrated nutrition. As smoothies evolve to incorporate cutting-edge ingredients and cater to emerging lifestyle needs, these drinks will only grow further in popularity.


In summary, the origins of smoothies date back to blended fruit and vegetable drinks from health food establishments in the 1930s and 40s. The term “smoothie” emerged later to describe their thick, smooth texture. Beginning in the 1960s and 70s, smoothies grew from a California health fad into a mainstream phenomenon with enormous commercial success. Major companies like Jamba Juice and Smoothie King helped popularize smoothies nationwide. The smoothie industry continues to thrive today with an emphasis on nutrition, customization, and supporting healthy, on-the-go lifestyles. Smoothies have proven to be more than just a fleeting trend, evolving over decades into a staple category of convenience food and drink.

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