Unlike making smoothies from scratch, which requires attaining, chopping and measuring multiple and often expensive products and then blending to create a mess, Outshine Smoothie cubes were made to deliver on convenience, Nestlé New Business Ventures senior manager of innovation and strategy Jamie Harbeck told FoodNavigator-USA.
“It is very easy to prepare. You don’t even need a blender. You basically take four ounces of cubes, or four induvial cubes, put them in a cup, cover it with liquid, let it sit for 15 minutes, shake and you are ready to go. You don’t need to dirty your blender,” she explained.
While easy to prepare, the idea of frozen smoothie cubes is far from novel, with several well-established, emerging and lesser-known smoothie cube brands, including Sambazon, Pitaya, evive, blendtoia, Creative Gourmet and Live Pure Organic, already crowding the limited freezer section where they share space with bags of frozen fruit and vegetables often marketed as easy add-ins for homemade smoothies.
Moving beyond the natural channel
But Nestlé is confident it can standout from the pack in part by seeking more mainstream distribution.
“A lot of those products are available in pretty niche channels. So, whether it’s direct-to-consumer or only in Whole Foods or other natural channels. Our hope is that we can really make this more widely available and accessible to a broader base of consumers with the familiarity of the Outshine brand and then, of course, our distribution with our retailers,” which includes many conventional banners and big box stores, said Harbeck.
The third layer of added convenience comes from creating a product that Harbeck said “tastes as good as your favorite smoothie place out of home” but without having to travel.
She explained that the smoothie cubes are available in three flavors, including The Glow To, which blends banana, pineapple and mango with date paste, spinach, kale, kiwi, cucumber and collagen peptides with a “touch of chia seed;” The Go-Getter, which Harbeck says offers a tropical flavor profile with B vitamins for energy, and The Gut Supporter, which is an excellent source of fiber with 6 grams per serving from a combination of strawberry puree and banana puree, chia seeds and date paste agave inulin.
As the names suggest, the products also are designed to meet rising consumer demand for products that are healthier, Harbeck said.
“Our data says 79% of people want to eat healthier and 65% of people want their food to have added nutritional benefits. So, they want their food and snacks to work a little harder for them,” she said.
She added that a company survey revealed the nutritional benefits that are most important to people are gut health and energy, which is why the line focuses on those two benefits.
The idea for smoothie cubes came from an employee through Nestlé's internal crowd-sourcing model that gives employees a change to pitch innovative new food and beverage ideas that are then voted on by their peers and leadership team.
Originally dubbed Blenderful Smoothie Cubes, Kelaine Cleary pitched the idea in 2019 as a way to make smoothies at home without compromising quality, wasting ingredients or getting bored with the same flavors over and over.
Intrigued by the idea, Nestlé did a test and learn on the product in San Francisco and after promising results, brought it back in house to further test, iterate and perfect, Harbeck said.
By ultimately bringing the concept under the Outshine brand, which stands for real fruit, no added sugar, non-GMO and no artificial ingredients, she added the product will have easier access to a consumer base that trusts the brand as offering better-for-you snacks that simultaneously are functional and indulgent.