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America Loves Smoothies And The Frozen Foods Industry Knows It


Last year, frozen fruit sales in this country surpassed a billion dollars, shattering all previous records. Sales have more than doubled since 2011.

So what's behind this explosion of frozen fruit?

Sarah Nassauer, who reports on the food business for the Wall Street Journal, points to a pair of studies from the world's biggest seller of fresh fruit.

"Dole [Packaged Foods] got into this business, started selling frozen fruit in 2005," she says. "So in 2006, they did a big sort of frozen fruit usage study, and then they did another one last year in 2014."

In the studies, Dole asked things like: What kind of frozen fruit do you buy? How much? And, most importantly, what do you use it for?

Back in 2006, Nassauer says, "People saw it more as a dessert topping. It was near whipped toppings in the frozen food aisle. And it was in these sort of hard-to-find lie-flat bags that were what frozen fruit was in for decades."

But Dole thought, here's this inherently healthy food — there has to be a bigger market out there.

"So they very intentionally said, 'Let's put it in these stand-up bags, put shiny graphics on it, suggest healthy recipes like smoothies on the back of the bag,' " Nassauer says. "And that was definitely their approach."

"At the same time," she adds, "I do think they probably got pretty lucky in terms of the health trends that has happened those years as well."

One health trend in particular is leading the charge: Smoothies. Busy, health-conscious Americans are sucking them down like mad.

"In 2014, they estimate that 60 percent of frozen fruit purchased went into smoothies," Nassauer says. "And that number was 21 percent in 2006."

NPR host Arun Rath went to Whole Foods, where you don't have to take the trouble of sliding glass. Unlike bags of veggies, frozen fruit containers are ready-to-grab in an open, reach-in freezer.

Tart cherries, sweet cherries, organic blueberries, cranberries, wild blueberries, mango chunks: the selections was extensive.

He also noticed the fruits were more nicely presented than they used to be, some in stand-up bags: "Some of these bags, the organic ones, look nice and wholesome ... beautiful pictures all over them."

When he was a kid, he remembers, they were packaged in plainer, white bags.

Nassauer says that with the smoothie craze spreading, it's no surprise that blender sales also hit the billion-dollar mark for the first time last year.

And to make things even easier, Dole and other companies are now selling combo bags, ready to blend.

You can even get kale in the mix, if you're so inclined. Or you could stick to the classic frozen berries — even if they come in new-fangled packaging.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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