Drink to health at creative juice concepts

Healthful liquid assets are proving invaluable to operators.

juice bar main

To welcome students back to campus after summer break, the University of West Virginia hosts an annual Fall Fest with plenty of free food. Free beer was part of the deal too—until recently. “This year, we handed out juice samples for students to try instead,” says Dan Simpson, managing partner of Fresh Hospitality, which operates two I Love Juice bars on the 30,000-student campus in Morgantown, W.V.

According to a recent Beverage Consumer Trend Report from market researcher Technomic, away-from-home sales of vegetable and fruit juices are expected to increase in frequency through 2016, as consumers continue to seek healthy alternatives to sugary sodas. Ditto for smoothies, whether made from scratch or bottled.

Flavor first

juice bar grab and go

I Love Juice tries to capture students’ attention with varied flavors and catchy names. For on-trend appeal, the concept’s chef, Vui Hunt, incorporates an Asian twist into some selections, such as the  What’s Up Doc (carrot, celery, cucumber, garlic, ginger and lemon), and heat into others, such as Mean Greens (jalapeno, celery, kale, spinach, cucumber, parsley and lemon).

To attract customers throughout the day, I Love Juice’s nutrition counselor, Sarah Moore, works with the university’s athletes and hospitality program for menu input. Modified juice cleanses, in which students can substitute a balanced fruit or vegetable juice for a meal, are now available and covered on the meal plan as a meal equivalent.

Juice makes the meal

piyata passion smoothie bowl

At California State University in Fullerton, the two Juice It Up units are destinations for more than healthy beverages. “In the past year, the menu items really have become more of a meal replacement,” says Campus Dining Director Tony Lynch.

Although the Juice It Up units are franchises, they are overseen by campus dining and are required to hire students as employees as part of an agreement with the university. A non-compete clause means any new Juice It Up items must be discussed with Lynch to avoid duplications.

While fresh juices are a draw in the morning, the smoothie bowls are going strong as lunches and snacks at this 40,000-student commuter school. Customers choose a base smoothie flavor, then top it with fresh fruit, granola, almonds, honey and more. Four or five blenders run at once, and all smoothies are packed for portability.

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