On Smoothie King

Starbucks did what it did by introducing a need in society that wasn’t there before: the need for a tall iced decaf no-fat caramel macchiato with extra caramel. Love ’em or hate ’em, you can’t help but admire the Starbucks business model; a model that carved its way through our craniums, branding our brains with green Starbucks logos and wrapping them with brown cardboard cupholders. Starbucks got into our heads.

Another force, on a smaller scale, walks in the footprints of Starbucks and has been gaining momentum over the last decade. Unlike Starbucks, it promotes “health” and “well-being” through “fruit” and “syrup” and “protein powder.” The entity in question is Smoothie King.

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Smoothie King is to college life what Tang is to NASA life: chemically engineered lifeblood.

Suzy Sorority may hate Joe Exisistentialist, but when it comes to a quick liquid pick-me-up, they’re both standing in line at the Smoothie King. A symbiotic relationship exists between a Smoothie King and its college students: the Smoothie King provides smoothies and college students provide parched lips from nights of partying, alcohol poisoning and a severe lack of nutrition. They’re like the rhinoceros and the parakeet. Or whatever.

It is nutrition, though, that I’d like to talk to you about now. Today I grabbed a smoothie on the way to class. (I was up all night partying with a parakeet and a term paper). Here is my Lemon Twist with Strawberry:

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Funny, it tastes good for you. But what’s all that stuff they put in it? As I watched the woman work, she squirted syrups and scooped powders into the blender before I could say: “No MSG!” But seriously, there’s a sinister element at play. They use fresh bananas, true. But everything else looks suspicious, like the salads at McDonalds which–when you examine them element by element–seem ok, but the whole still strikes you as “off.”

I’m especially worried about this Protein Craze. GNC and Smoothie King and thousands of other companies are selling these gigantic bottles of white powder that studs-to-be scoop into their smoothies or milkshakes or proteinated IV drips. I know, because I was one of those studs. My first attempt at gym-going involved a trainer who made me buy (under threat of an extra push-up) a giant (and I mean giant) tub of Myoplex. After three watery, powdery gag-inducing shakes I said “Feh!” and threw the tub in the trash.

I have nothing against protein–chicken, steak, fish are all great to me; it’s protein in powder form that’s freaky. Doesn’t that scare anyone else? Would you eat fruit in powdered form? Brussel sprouts? I rest my case.

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