Acai and other superfruits add a healthful kick to drink menus.
This article first appeared in the 1 March 2010 issue of Restaurants & Institutions (R&I).
R&I is the USA's leading source of food and business-trend information and exclusive research on operators and restaurant patrons. Editorial coverage spans the entire foodservice industry, including chains, independent restaurants, hotels and institutions. Visit the R&I website to find out more about the magazine or to search its recipe database.
By Kelly Smith Killian
Pomegranate and acai have gone mainstream, showing up in drinks at a wide variety of concepts. Other superfruits, such as mangosteen, goji berry, guarana and sea buckthorn, also are catching on, thanks to not only their purported health benefits but also their novelty.
Often tart, superfruits may not appeal to everyone, but Chef Kim Canteenwalla sees value in offering guests something outside the norm. On the breakfast menu at Society Café Encore in Las Vegas, bottled acai and pomegranate juices are offered in addition to fresh-squeezed orange and grapefruit juices. "It is part of our makeup," he says. "We have a lot of organics on the menu, so there is a lot of synergy."
- Andy's ElixirAt True Food Kitchen in Phoenix, Executive Chef Michael Stebner calls on acidic sea buckthorn in two drinks he describes as "pick-me-ups with benefits." The Andy's Elixir combines sea-buckthorn juice with agave nectar and soda water; an "antioxidant blast" beverage matches the juice with cranberry and pomegranate juices, muddled blueberries, black tea and soda water. Though it's not yet common on menus, "Sea buckthorn is the new acai," says Stebner.
SMOOTHIES & SHAKES
Several juice concepts are bolstering the health profile of drinks by loading multiple superfruits into the blender. Juice It Up, a 107-unit chain based in Irvine, Calif., menus an acai smoothie with guarana. The Antioxidant All-Star smoothie at four-unit Juice Generation in New York City packs in mangosteen, blueberries, acai pulp, pomegranate juice and banana.
At Atlanta-based Planet Smoothie, acai first appeared on the menu a decade ago, but its popularity has taken off in the last few years. Following the success of its limited-time offer last July of three new acai and Amazon-cherry smoothies, the 125-unit chain is developing additional superfruit smoothies, including one that will debut this summer. Says President Tra Williams, "Superfruits have a variety of health benefits, but they also have a really warm, subtle flavor, and they … accompany other fruits really well
Even nonjuice concepts are taking note: At Rockville, Md.-based Silver Diner, an acai-pomegranate shake blends acai berries, pomegranate juice, bananas, yogurt and wheat germ.
Gaining ground at the bar are functional cocktails, which use mixers such as pomegranate and acai juices. The Superfruit ‘Rita at Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Z'Tejas Southwestern Grill mixes tequila with a bottled superfruit purée (consisting of blueberries, acai and pomegranate), lime juice and orange liqueur. "There is an increasing awareness of superfruits," says Steven Micheletti, Z'Tejas' president and CEO. "[On menus] they draw attraction and resonate with people who are aware of their benefits."