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BLENDERS

Blender Technology Making Smoothies Better

The race is on to find a better mousetrap, or in the smoothie business a better blender. The blender is the heart of any smoothie operation. In the early days (1996) not much was expected of the retrofitted, under-powered adapted home blender that was expected to perform as if it were an industrial maintain Hobart power mixer. Employees would stand in from of these small overworked relics from the home kitchen and use them until they either burned up or wore out. The process was timed consuming and dangerous for the employees because they would have to shake these machines while they were blending, exposing themselves to high decibel levels over a long period of time.

There are five real contenders in the smoothie blender market. Two are in the lead with new technologies and more on the drawing board, and the other three are in a catch up mode. K-Tec surprised the market with their entry into the smoothie business with an in-the-counter high-powered commercial blender. They were looked at by the contenders, but how could a small unknown company from a small town in Utah even think they could have an impact on a growing national market. But they did, and their early efforts have changed the way blenders are being used today. Via Mix which has been in the blender market since the 1930's, has always produced high quality equipment, but was slow to catch the drift of the market and allowed K-Tec to slip in and capture a healthy portion of what should have been their market niche. Vita Mix has come back with full vengeance with a new in-the-counter model based on their proven technologies that have served millions of customers for the last 50 years.

What about the others? Hamilton Beach has come out with a new model above-the-counter blender, and it is anticipated that if they are to remain in the smoothie industry, they too will have to come out with an in-the-counter model. They have technological resources and a powerful company to back them in whatever they want to do. Their reputation in the ice Cream Shake machines has made them an industry standard in that arena. The Hamilton Beach and Warring were the first machines to be used in most of the Smoothie operations until the entry into the market by K-Tec. K-Tec has caused everyone to reconsider their positions and make the decision to compete or not. All have decided that competition is good for the market, especially for the consumer.

The real question posed by most smoothie shop owners is do I really need all this power? Why not just use one of the old standards? The answer is easy - What is time worth? Are you paying your employees so little that it makes no difference whether they take 90 or 2 seconds to make a drink? Time is money and the more powerful blenders especially designed for task are far more efficient than the smaller powered machines.

But power is not everything. All of the competitors have begun to address the question of sound containment. There are significant differences of decibel levels from one machine to the next. When testing it is important not only to test the base motor but the blender jar in action. Some of the models are loud because the motors are racing at maximum velocity on the verge of disintegration. Others can do the same job at a slower speed. Speed is not always the answer in the machine's ability to blend a drink properly. Too fast can cause the product to disengage itself from the blades and cause poor blending. Too slow and the product will not be blended properly. There is a tremendous amount of effort being expended by the five major companies to come up with the right combinations to speed, power, jar configurations and time.

Sound containment was first introduced by Vita Mix with their cone of silence that was used by Starbucks from the inception of their blended coffee drink program. This was a large cylinder made of stainless steel that was hard to clean, occupied an inordinate amount of space. but served its purpose. Vita Mix was the first to realize that if the blended drink industry was going to grow in small crowded locations, the sound produced by the high speed commercial blenders needed to be reduced or contained. K-Tec came along with a containment system that fit right over there in-the-counter model and deduced not only the sound emitted but the space required for the entire operation. Slow to follow but still on there heels, was Vita Mix with their new sound containment systems. Their new system is now NSF approved and has an ingenious method of removing the cover for easy cleaning. The hinge system is far superior to anything else on the market. One of the most efficient and well-built sound containment systems has just been introduced by Warring, designed to house their Margarita Madness machine. It not only looks good but functions very well. Warring would do well to make this a product line available for others to place their above-the-counter blenders in.

In conclusion, it needs to be started that every machine has its place and market niche. The kind of machine you are going to use will depend on what you're going to produce. So the first step is to determine what kind of drink you want. How many drinks do you need to produce in a single day or within a given time frame? What type of ingredients do you intend to use and what type of ice do you have? These are all variables that effect the drinks and the machine's ability to give the result you want.

The best mousetrap has yet to be made. There are some incredible innovations that will be coming into the market that will make the current technologies look like the Model A Ford. As the smoothie market grows, so will the capital from companies wanting to make sure they can capture or maintain your allegiance.







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