Where did the smoothie originate from?

What is a smoothie?

A smoothie is a thick, cold beverage made from raw fruit, vegetables, dairy products, and/or plant-based milk that is blended together until smooth. Smoothies can be made with a wide variety of ingredients, but typically contain a liquid base like fruit juice, milk, or yogurt along with various fruits, veggies, seeds, nut butters, protein powders, and more. The blending process breaks down the fiber and cell walls of the ingredients while retaining most of the nutrients, making smoothies a convenient way to increase your intake of fruits and vegetables.

When were the first smoothies invented?

The origins of the smoothie can be traced back to Brazil in the 1930s and 1940s. During this time, a Brazilian pharmacist named Ernesto Imark created a nutritional health drink made from bananas and fresh apple juice. Imark called his creation a “smoothy” and began selling it at his pharmacy in Rio de Janeiro as an energy-boosting health tonic.

The banana and apple smoothy quickly became popular in Brazil and by the late 1940s, similar blended fruit drinks made with papaya, cashews, and even avocados were being sold from street carts and health food stores under names like “vitamina de fruta.” These early versions of smoothies were promoted as nutritious meal replacements and immune-system boosters.

When did smoothies arrive in the United States?

Smoothies first arrived in the United States in the 1960s, influenced by the rise of hippie and surfer culture focused on natural, healthy living. On the West Coast, fruit smoothie stands began popping up in neighborhoods like Venice Beach, catering to surfers looking for a refreshing post-surfing drink.

The now-famous smoothie chain Jamba Juice traces its roots back to a little health food store called Juice Club that opened in San Luis Obispo, California in 1990. The owners wanted to find new ways to get kids to eat more whole fruits and veggies, so they started blending up fresh juices and smoothies. Their creations became so popular that they opened their first standalone Jamba Juice location in 1995.

How did smoothies spread in popularity?

Several factors helped boost the popularity of smoothies from the 1990s onwards:

  • The rising health and wellness movement – With more focus on nutrition, exercise, and food as medicine, smoothies were seen as an easy way to increase fruit/veggie intake and get a wide range of vitamins and minerals.
  • New blending technology – Blenders became more affordable and convenient for home use, making it easier for people to make smoothies themselves.
  • On-the-go lifestyle – Smoothies appealed to busy professionals and families looking for quick, portable meals and snacks.
  • Foodie culture – Exotic and nutrient-dense “superfoods” like acai, goji berries, maca powder, and more became smoothie staples, taking them from simple drinks to gourmet treats.
  • Juice bars and coffee chains – Stores like Jamba Juice, Smoothie King, and coffee chains like Starbucks began selling pre-made, grab-and-go smoothies, exposing them to huge new audiences.

As a result, smoothies surged from being unknown in the 1980s and early 1990s to a massive $2 billion market by 2002. These days, smoothies are a mainstream part of cafe menus, grocery store offerings, health programs, and home kitchens.

What are some major types of smoothies?

There are endless smoothie varieties and ways to customize them to your personal tastes. But in general, most smoothies fall into a few major categories:

Fruit Smoothies

Fruit smoothies are the most common and familiar type. They contain fruit as the main ingredient, typically with a liquid base of fruit juice, milk, yogurt or water. Bananas, berries, mangos, pineapples, peaches and cherries are popular fruits. These smoothies tend to be naturally sweeter and more refreshing.

Green Smoothies

Green smoothies include leafy greens like spinach, kale or chard as a main ingredient. The greens are blended with fruits like bananas, berries or pineapple to offset their bitterness. Green smoothies are high in nutrients and great for health-conscious smoothie drinkers.

Protein Smoothies

Protein smoothies pack a protein punch by incorporating ingredients like protein powders, greek yogurt, peanut butter, tofu, oats, or chia seeds. They make an excellent meal replacement or recovery drink after workouts.

Superfood Smoothies

Superfood smoothies contain antioxidant-rich superfoods like acai, maca, cacao, matcha powder, spirulina, turmeric, ginger, coconut, chia seeds and more. They target specific health benefits from the superfood additions.

Meal Replacement Smoothies

Meal replacement smoothies contain protein, healthy fats, carbs and a mix of other nutrients to replace a full meal. They typically mimic a breakfast, lunch, or dinner with ingredients like nut butters, oats, granola, avocado and protein powder.

Dessert Smoothies

For smoothies with an indulgent twist, dessert smoothies include ingredients like chocolate, peanut butter, cheesecake, caramel, or cookies. Banana is a popular base along with milk or yogurt.

What are the health benefits of smoothies?

When made with whole foods and healthy ingredients, smoothies can deliver a wide array of benefits:

  • Increased fruit/veggie intake – Blending produce makes it easier to consume more servings per day.
  • Nutrient absorption – Blending breaks down cell walls to liberate vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
  • Fiber – Smoothies retain insoluble and soluble fiber from ingredients like fruit, greens, chia seeds, oats, etc.
  • Hydration – The liquid base helps the body hydrate.
  • Portability – Easy to drink smoothies on-the-go for meals/snacks.
  • Low fat – Smoothies without added sugars or unhealthy fats can be part of a healthy diet.
  • Disease prevention – Nutrients may help lower risk for heart disease, diabetes, cancers and more.
  • Skin, hair & nails – Antioxidants can promote healthy hair, skin and nail growth.
  • Weight management – High-protein and fiber smoothies can help control hunger and appetite.
  • Energy boost – Carbs from fruit provide an energizing effect.

However, smoothies made with lots of added sugars, juices, sweeteners or ice cream can spike blood sugar and lose some of their nutritional appeal. Overall, smoothies are an extremely healthy choice when focused on whole foods over processed ingredients.

What are some key tips for making great smoothies?

Follow these tips for building delicious, nutritious smoothies every time:

  • Use frozen fruit for thickness and chill – freezing bananas, berries, peaches, etc gives a creamy cold texture.
  • Include healthy fats – avocado, nut butter, flax or chia seeds help make smoothies more filling.
  • Swap juice for whole fruits – fruit juice spikes sugar without fiber; use whole pieces of fruit instead.
  • Don’t skip the protein – protein powders, greek yogurt, tofu and nuts provide staying power.
  • Add superfoods – chia, spirulina, maca, cacao nibs give extra nutrition.
  • Use ice sparingly – a few cubes adds chill without diluting or affecting texture.
  • Watch added sugars – sweeteners, syrups, and juices quickly increase sugar and calories.
  • Use liquid bases – stick to water, plant-based milk or yogurt rather than fruit juice.
  • Blend to proper consistency – blend until smooth, but not so long that smoothies get warm.
  • Store properly – store in airtight container in fridge for 3-4 days; freeze for longer storage.

Experimenting with combinations of flavors and textures is part of the fun and creativity of smoothie-making. Try out different add-ins to create your own favorites.

What are some common smoothie ingredients?

Popular smoothie ingredients include:


  • Water
  • Fruit Juice
  • Milk (dairy, almond, soy, coconut, etc)
  • Yogurt
  • Ice


  • Banana
  • Berries – strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries
  • Mango
  • Pineapple
  • Peach
  • Cherries
  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Melons – cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon
  • Citrus – oranges, grapefruit, lemon, lime


  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Swiss chard
  • Celery
  • Cucumber
  • Carrots
  • Beets
  • Sweet potato
  • Peppers


  • Chia seeds
  • Flax seeds
  • Hemp seeds
  • Spirulina
  • Wheatgrass
  • Maca powder
  • Cacao powder
  • Acai
  • Matcha powder
  • Turmeric

Proteins & Healthy Fats

  • Protein powder – whey, plant-based
  • Nut butters – almond, peanut, cashew
  • Nuts
  • Seeds – chia, hemp, flax, pumpkin
  • Oats
  • Greek yogurt
  • Avocado
  • Coconut


  • Honey
  • Maple syrup
  • Pitted dates
  • Banana
  • Vanilla extract
  • Cinnamon
  • Cocoa powder


  • Tea – green, black, herbal
  • Coffee
  • Nutmeg
  • Mint
  • Lemon/lime juice
  • Ginger
  • Protein powders
  • Herbs

Combining a few ingredients from each category allows for endless smoothie varieties to suit any taste or dietary needs.

What are some popular commercial smoothie brands?

Some of the most popular pre-made smoothie brands include:

  • Jamba Juice – The smoothie chain with over 800 locations in the US. Known for fruit and veggie smoothie blends and wheatgrass shots.
  • Smoothie King – With over 900 stores, they popularized adding supplements like protein and vitamins to smoothies.
  • Tropical Smoothie Cafe – A fast casual cafe for smoothies and food with over 900 locations nationwide.
  • Planet Smoothie – Specializing in low-fat smoothies in flavors like chocolate, strawberry and pina colada.
  • Orange Julius – A mall staple serving fruit smoothies and classic orange juice blends since 1926.
  • Naked Juice – Bottled superfood smoothies made with juices and purees of green veggies and fruits.
  • Bolthouse Farms – Another major bottled smoothie brand making protein, cafe, and fruit & veggie smoothie varieties.
  • Starbucks – Offers popular smoothie-like Frappuccino blended coffee drinks in retail stores and grocery aisles.

Many other regional chains have also popularized smoothies in various markets. As smoothies continue gaining mainstream popularity, more and more quick-service restaurants are adding smoothies to their menus.

What is the smoothie industry worth today?

Smoothies have become a multi-billion dollar industry today. Estimates place the global smoothie market at over $12 billion in annual sales as of 2020.

Within the United States, annual sales of smoothies at restaurants and beverage shops is forecast to reach $2.5 billion by 2025. The bottled smoothie market in the US is projected to hit $15 billion by 2028 as smoothies continue replacing sugary sodas and juices on store shelves.

New smoothie shops are also continuing to expand. For example, Playa Bowls, a smoothie bowl concept based in New Jersey, grew from 1 location in 2014 to over 200 locations by 2019. The global rising demand for nutritious, convenient blended drinks continues fueling the smoothie industry’s rapid growth.


Smoothies have come a long way since their origins as humble health tonics in Brazil in the 1930s. Thanks to health food stores, surf culture, blender technology, nutrition awareness, and foodie trends, smoothies have become a staple drink around the world today.

While recipes and styles vary wildly, most smoothies aim to pack fruits, veggies, protein, nutrients, and flavor into a portable beverage. When made thoughtfully using whole ingredients, they can be an incredibly healthy meal or snack option. The smoothie industry has ballooned over the past two decades and continues gaining popularity with new smoothie shops and brands entering the market.

Next time you blend up a smoothie, consider its origins from humble Brazilian pharmacist Ernesto Imark as he sought to create nutritional health tonics. With over 80 years of innovation since then, smoothies have certainly come a long way and become a phenomenon in their own right.

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