The History of the Smoothie

A smoothie is a chilled drink that is blended with crushed ice, fresh (or frozen) fruit or vegetables. It can have frozen yogurt, honey, and various other ingredients to make a unique drink. Typically, smoothies are thicker than slush drinks, having a milkshake type consistency.

You probably know all of that already. What you may not know of, though, is the history of the smoothie. Believe it or not. This popular refreshing beverage evolved with the times, giving it an interesting history.

The smoothie first made its debut in health food stores in the West coast of the United States. In the 1930s, pureed fruit drinks mixed with ice which were based on Brazilian recipes were being sold as an afternoon refreshment. Reminiscent of the cocktails served during prohibition, these pureed drinks had become so widely accepted, that by the 1940s, a cookbook published recipes for fruit drinks, which were essentially smoothies, though they didn't yet have the name “smoothie.” This name for the fruit drink was coined by the Hippies of the 1960s who made fruit and fruit juice based drinks.

Along with the coining of its specific name, the 1960s popularized the smoothie. It was in this decade that the smoothie was sold not only in health food stores, but by ice cream stores and by ice cream vendors as well, making them widely available in the United States. Dan Titus, director of the Juice and Smoothies Association attributed this boost in popularity to the “resurgence in macrobiotic vegetarianism” which was seen in the 1960s.

By the time the 1970s rolled around, smoothies were becoming so popular that copyrights for smoothie recipes were being issued. The first trademark for it came in the mid-1970s and bore the name “California Smoothie”, given because the health restaurants in which smoothies were so popular were in California. It was also during this time that iced milk was mixed in to create a “fruit shake” instead of a milk shake. They were sold in local health food restaurants and stores alongside other healthy foods, such as tofu and fruits.

In the 1980s, smoothies increased in popularity alongside sports and fitness. Smoothies were a great health food product that the health conscious and fitness oriented could feel guilt-free about drinking. The 80s saw the opening of juice and smoothie bars, where smoothies were the main product, no longer one of many health products.

Come the 1990s and 2000s, smoothie companies began using frozen yogurt to give their smoothies a thick and creamy consistency, the inspiration of which was found in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine, giving smoothies a unique twist. It was also during this time that more people began experimenting by mixing smoothies with soda and/or alcohol. Another innovation of the era was to pre-bottle smoothies and sell them ready-to-drink in grocery stores. These have short shelf lives, however, and often require refrigeration.

That brings us to present day. Throughout the course of its 70 year life, smoothies have become a multi-billion dollar industry. Most people don't know this, however. They simply hear the name and think of the sweetness of fresh fruit and the goodness of a cool drink on a hot day. In the end, despite all innovations and changes in history, it is these natural attributes that make smoothies so popular and as successful as they are today.