Great Green Globs

If you know me, you know I'm a juice drinker. I'm genuinely shocked when anyone tells me they don't drink a lot of juice, so highly do I regard its taste and nutritive value. Like any committed juice drinker, I love to treat myself to a smoothie from time to time (by which I mean several times a week, if possible), and I'm too busy/lazy to make them myself. So, in the world of commercially available smoothies, there are three ways you can go:
  1. Juice Bars and Smoothie places are the best (Jamba Juice, Robex, lots of independent places, Whole foods in SRQ has a pretty nice juice bar...) they take fresh ingredients, add healthy "boosts" to your specifications (protein powder, multi vitamin, etc) and blend it for you with ice and milk or whatever. Totally yummy, and lots of healthy stuff (probably a lot of sugar and calories too, but it feels healthy, and that's what matters to me), however at $4-6 per smoothie, this is not economically sound as a daily drink.
  2. Non-juice bar blended smoothies are pretty much a scam. You can get these at fast-food places and school cafeterias. Basically they take sweetened fruit concentrate syrup and mix it up with crushed ice, resulting in a sort of fruit slurpee. These are refreshing in a pinch, but too sweet to really feel at all healthy or natural. And I'm sure the sugar content is through the roof.
  3. Bottled juice smoothies are actually better than one might think (not quite as fancy as fresh-blended juice bar smoothies, but much nicer than the fast-food variety) and are widely available. Grocery stores, 7-11s, gas stations, pretty much any place that sells individually bottles drinks sells bottled smoothies. The three brands that dominate the market are Odwalla, Naked Juice, and Bolthouse Farms.
My mission today is to examine the third option. Each brand has its strengths and weaknesses (Bolthouse Farms coffeemocha protein shake, while not really a smoothie, is the tastiest protein beverage around) but I thought I'd pick one type of smoothie and compare across all three labels. I've chosen the green smoothie because I love it, it's the health-food-iest of the bunch, and because I think often people are needlessly frightened by the color. I will award up to 10 points for taste, 5 points for nutritious content, and 5 points for package design.

  1. Odwalla "Original Superfood" - Despite the dark green color, probably from the 2000 mg of spirulina, this has a very traditional smoothie taste, with a little bit of a bite. With the primary ingredients being apple, peach, mango, strawberry and banana you're sort of overwhelmed by the fruity-ness of it, while the green stuff, wheat and barley grass, sprouts and jerusalem artichoke, not to mention the spirulina, tries to slip by undetected. The resulting flavor is complex, perhaps too complex. The fruits and the greens feel like separate elements that never quite come together to form one flavor pallette. It's not like it tastes bad, but it's not my favorite. And while those green ingredients sound pretty impressive, when you check the nutrition info, it doesn't add up to as much as you might think (20% of your recommended daily intake of Vitamin C, 20% Iodine, 8% Iron, 2% Calcium). I'm hesitant to harsh on the packaging because the Odwalla look is such a big part of the bottled juice industry, but while I like the bright colors and swirly cartoon graphics, I wonder if people who come to this drink as adults might think it looks to juvenile, and that's already kind of a problem for juice... Points awarded: Taste- 7, Health- 2, Design- 3; Total 12/20
  2. Bolthouse Farms "Green Goodness"- Definitely has a very earthy taste. Boasting 1500mg of spirulina, as well as chlorella, green tea, broccoli, spinach, barley and wheat grass, bluegreen algae, echinacea, garlic, and a bunch of other healthy stuff, Bolthouse Farms does not hide its greens under a bushel. The apple, banana, kiwi and pineapple work with, rather than against their darker counter parts, but do nothing to shield the drinker from what's going on; this is good for you, and you know it. The taste is still better than a non-green juice drinker might expect, but only by a little. The vitamin content is fantastic (over %100 daily value for Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Zinc and Magnese) and you feel good after drinking it. The packaging is age neutral, equally appealing to organic-happy moms, and old ladies in farm houses, but the over-all appearance is very subdued and doesn't call attention to itself. I also find it difficult to imagine a man buying or drinking from this container. Points awarded: Taste- 4, Health- 5, Design- 2; Total 11/20
  3. Naked Juice "Green Machine" - I love this drink. In the interest of full disclosure you should know that when I'm not doing taste tests for my blog, "Green Machine" is the only green smoothie I buy. The taste is so satisfying, you feel like kiwi and bluegreen algae were made for each other. The fruits and the greens come together to form one yummy, healthy whole, with no pond-like after taste. The ingredients stack up pretty much like the other two (but with slightly less Spirulina, no jerusalem artichoke, and added ginger and parsley), and the vitamin/mineral content pretty much splits the difference between odwalla and bolthouse. Appearance-wise, it's hard to look past a word like "naked" when you see it on a juice bottle, and if you pick it up and take a closer look you'll find an easy to read list of the fruits and "boosts" in the mix, as well as a cute little dialogue about how weird it looks as compared to how good it tastes. And even though young-ish ladies probably make up most of the smoothie buying market, nothing about this bottle is particularly feminine or childlike. Points Awarded: Taste-10, Health- 3, Design- 5; Total 18/20!!!
I hope everyone found this informative, because I am now so sloshy with green juice that I'm likely to sprout leaves any second. If anybody questions my methodology based on the fact that this was a one person study, and only confirmed that my favorite was the best... well, you can get your own blog and do your own juice tasting. Or just send me some feedback, and let me know your green smoothie thoughts; I love a good beverage debate!

Happy juicing!


Mimsy said...

Alice, you deserve a special de-coder ring for your wondrous de-mystification and detailed explanation of the differing benefits & other aspects of this juicy array.
Furthermore, to save us all the trouble, expense and indigestion, you were the guinea pig for this experiment in culinary science!!
I must caution you, however: this methodology proved problematic for Dr. Jekyll.

It appears you might have a tertiary career as a restaurant reviewer (or judge at State Fairs).

I do thank you for this truly helpful info. Next, you should analyze the sugar and semi-amphetamine content in those canned energy drinks. hmmm?

Livetta said...

I would differ from your rating on the Bolthose "Green Goodness" only in that I'd award it more points on taste; then again, I favor rougher, more earthy flavors (this from the girl who stuffs raw kale down her throat at every opportunity). I want now to give the Naked Juice a try now, since you've marked it so highly. I've been leery of it in the past, simply because Odwalla is owned by Coca Cola (and doesn't taste very good to me) and Naked Juice by Pepsi... but then, I've been known to occasionally chug Mountain Dew, so really, there. Thank you for the reviews!

Anonymous said...

I know this is (slightly) off topic, but as a fellow rapacious juice hound ... I think Bolthouse Farms "Pear/Merlot" blend is, hands down, the best new juice of the last calendar year. line it up with Vedge and Green Goodness and you have one powerhouse product line.

I do take a little umbrage with the use of the noun "Merlot" when they could just say "grape" ... but as the sort of word-nerd who uses nouns like "umbrage" it sure didn't scare me off the corner.

Overall, great post; looking forward to more.

Anonymous said...

Maybe I misread but are you giving points based off design and not the nutrient value of each drink?

Bolthouse design is age neutral as you said yourself so why grade so low? I don't really understand your review here - they both have pictures of fruit/veggies on their bottle labels.

I prefer Bolthouse Farm as Livetta. The price is cheaper, well, more affordable than Naked. Naked has a lower vitamin content too. So if you grade higher for Naked on taste, your preference, but to grade Bolthouse low due to design seems a bit juvenile.

Give me nutrients over design.

Alice Lee Dutton said...

Well, each drink received points on those three separate metrics, which were then added together. Obviously, this is just my own opinion, and hardly a thorough study of the subject. But I like the design of the Naked smoothie bottles, and product design is a HUGH factor in consumer choice, so I don't think there's anything particularly juvenile about discussing it.

Just out of curiosity, how did you happen to come across this two years after I wrote it? Do we know each other?

rd_cujo said...

Well, I don't know you...and I found this blog from researching the difference between bolthouse and naked. I just began drinking the green machine on Sunday and have had some amazing results; however, the stores are staying sold out. I found bolthouse this evening and due to the price and alot of the same ingredients (plus extra) I decided to give it a try.....taste, a little harder to swallow. But I do agree that it seems to have more of the nutrients that we need. I am also not thrilled by the concentrate. Hopefully I will have the same results as with Naked Green Machine, I don't want to miss a day!

Anonymous said...

The healthiest was rated the worst. Interesting.

Anonymous said...

Isn't bolthouse owned by campbells? They have another green smoothie that's horrible. I think its called daily greens. Supposed to have 4 servings of veggies abut it tastes like v-8 juices's ugly cousin. &as anyone else tried it?

Anonymous said...

I would have rated the Health content as most important and given that a scale of 10 points, with Taste second in importance on a scale of 5 points, only because if Taste is your primary criteria, there's plenty of tasty but UNhealthy things you could be choosing to drink first. Don't get me wrong, I have a keen awareness of consumer product design, but in reviewing a food product of any sort, including this aspect as relevant just makes me think it comes off as "How fashionable am I going to look gulping this product down in public?" In other words, the product design aspect is only really relevant to the people who have to SELL the product. How the bottle or label looks is so irrelevant compared to nutritional content and taste that it doesn't even rate a mention.

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