What happened to Starbucks smoothies? The history of smoothies at Starbucks

Starbucks Smoothie Rollout: Vivanno

In 2008, I worked as a barista at Starbucks. It was an exciting era for expansion. Around this time, they were just rolling out food in their stores along with another innovation, low calorie real fruit smoothies. Unfortunately for fans of the product, they are no longer an option. I continued to remain a fan of their smoothies long after my tenure working as a Starbucks barista until their little noticed demise in the late 2010’s. Let’s go through the history of Starbucks and smoothies.

The Rollout:
Starbucks smoothies officially launched under the Vivanno name in 2008. The product, in my humble opinion, was awesome. It was a line of smoothies, each containing a whole banana, with 16 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber with 270 calories or less and no artificial colors, artificial sweeteners, or high-fructose corn syrup in a 16-ounce serving. The drinks were rolled out in the United States and Canada. The two debut flavors were: Orange Mango Banana and Banana Chocolate.

The Vivanno smoothie originally had its own cups.

I remember when I worked there, as baristas, we would make our own custom versions. For example, the orange mango banana smoothie was incredible with matcha powder and I continued to order that through the duration of Starbucks serving smoothies.

These blended beverages featured the aforementioned flavors and were made with real fruit, milk, protein powder, and ice. Starbucks marketed its smoothies as a nutritious and wholesome option, emphasizing ingredients like fresh fruit, protein, and the absence of artificial flavors and high fructose corn syrup. As a fan of those somewhat bland tasting health smoothies, I really do miss the Starbucks smoothie option. An awesome roughly 600 calorie breakfast option was a Starbucks smoothie and one of their spinach wraps.

Generic Smoothie branding

At some point, Starbucks dropped the Vivanno branding and it simply became smoothies. It is unclear when this transition this happened but they were basically the same thing as the Vivanno without the name. At times, they were difficult to even spot on the menu board.

The Starbucks smoothie lineup, as far as I can tell, in its final iteration were these core flavors: Banana Chocolate Smoothie, Orange Mango Banana Smoothie, and Strawberry Banana Smoothie. I recall being able to order the smoothie until about roughly 2019. Other online reports note that Starbucks phased them out around 2017.

Evolution Fresh Smoothies

Promo photo of the short lived Evolution Fresh smoothies

In early 2015, Starbucks rolled out another type of smoothie under their Evolution Fresh line. Starbucks purchased the Evolution Fresh juice company in 2011 and sold their prepackaged juice products and decided to pivot into a smoothie line with the product.

Evolution Fresh Smoothies, as stated on the company blog in 2015, “…are made from simple, nutritious ingredients with nothing added that nature didn’t put there. Delivering 20 percent or more of recommended daily combined fruit and vegetable servings, the smoothies are made to order in three flavors including Sweet Greens, Strawberry and Mango Carrot, with the option to add fresh kale upon request.”

The post went on to state: “Evolution Fresh worked with yogurt leader, Dannon, for nearly two years to craft the perfect creamy canvas that would marry the two primary smoothie ingredients: Greek nonfat yogurt and cold-pressed fruit and vegetable juice made using high pressure processing.” The smoothies were available at “4,300 Starbucks stores in the Pacific Northwest, Northern California and select grocery stores nationwide.”

That said, I do not recall ever seeing them available on the East Coast and there are no articles or any information available about the Evolution Fresh smoothies after their 2015 rollout. They do continue to sell the prepackaged Evolution Fresh juices at Starbucks, even though Starbucks actually sold the brand to Bolthouse Farms in 2022.

Starbucks Refreshers

Starbucks Refreshers (from the company blog)

I hesitate to include Refreshers in this pieces because Starbucks is actually being sued for these drinks supposedly not containing real fruit. Technically, Starbucks Refreshers are not smoothies.

In 2012, Starbucks rolled out the Refresher line of beverages, which included both handmade and canned versions. The blog post announcing the drinks in 2012 noted: “Customers can enjoy Starbucks Refreshers beverages in Very Berry Hibiscus and Cool Lime flavors at participating Starbucks stores in the U.S. and Canada, as well as 15 markets internationally. The green coffee extract used in Starbucks Refreshers beverages is made from unroasted 100% arabica beans – resulting in delicious, low calorie refreshment with a boost of natural energy from caffeine – tasting nothing like traditional brewed coffee.” The company expanded and debuted new flavors in 2014: blueberry acai, strawberry lemonade, and raspberry pomegranate.

The Refreshers have continued to be successful and in a company blog post in summer 2023, noted that they are the “fastest growing beverage category at company-operated Starbucks stores in the US.” In this post, they announced three new blended frozen lemonade flavors: strawberry acai, mango dragonfruit, and pineapple passionfruit. Again, these are not smoothies, but worth noting as their success is likely a strong reason why Starbucks feels no need to have actual smoothies.

Will Starbucks bring back smoothies?

In summary, Starbucks’ foray into selling smoothies, initially under the brand name Vivanno, was a notable expansion of their menu beyond coffee. These blended beverages were introduced to cater to a wider customer base and provide a refreshing and nutritious option alongside their coffee offerings. While the smoothies had fans like myself, they never caught on enough to really be a huge priority or focus for the company. The consumers have spoken and prefer their traditional coffee drinks and Refreshers.

While I would love to see Starbucks bring back the smoothie, my guess is we will not be seeing them make a return any time soon.

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