Kale has yet to hit McDonald’s, but it may have reached your local Starbucks. The chain has announced a big partnership with Dannon yogurt that will be putting yogurt parfaits and, yes, kale smoothies into its stores over the next few months.
The Greek-yogurt-based smoothies — a collaboration between Dannon, Starbucks, and Evolution Fresh juices — were first tested last year in San Jose and St. Louis, and now they’re the first major update to Starbucks’ smoothie selection in years. In Sweet Greens, Strawberry, and Mango Carrot flavors, the smoothies are all between 170 and 230 calories and come with options to add additional nonfat Greek yogurt, protein powder, or — you guessed it — fresh kale. The smoothies haven’t gone national yet, but they are in more than 4,300 Starbucks locations, including stand-alone stores in Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Northern California, and parts of Idaho, plus grocery locations in Target, Safeway, Albertsons, and Kroger.
Also included in the Dannon partnership and coming soon: yogurt parfaits, again created in collaboration with Evolution Fresh, in two year-round flavors (strawberry and sweet dark cherry) and two seasonal options (honey and fresh berries). The parfaits, made with nonfat Greek yogurt, fruit, and granola, will be in 6,000 Starbucks stores nationwide in May. Dannon and Evolution Fresh also are collaborating on a new line of fruit-infused yogurt for grocery stores, but it doesn’t sound like Starbucks currently plans to carry those individual yogurt cups.
I’m a fan of the Evolution Fresh Sweet Greens with Lemon juice, and when I recently stopped by my local Starbucks after a Spright team Soul Cycle outing to pick one up, the barista sold me on trying the smoothie version instead. She told me it was “just like the juice, with some tang from the yogurt.” I’m glad she didn’t mention the mango and banana flavors Starbucks claims are in there, because as a avowed banana-hater, I’d probably have said no. (I have to admit I couldn’t taste the banana at all; it’s really hidden.) The 16-ounce size — the only size offered — feels substantial, and I was shocked to discover it was only 170 calories per serving. Frankly, it’s heavier on sugar and lighter on protein than I would like, but it doesn’t seem too far out of line when compared to other yogurt-based treats, and at least the sugar comes from natural sources. I didn’t know about the kale option at the time, but the next time I’ll be adding a dose of fresh greens.
One thing from the Starbucks announcement that I found particularly interesting: the company decided to put the smoothies in grocery store locations to address “a customer need for delicious snacks in the afternoon, when grocery store traffic is highest.” We can’t argue with the need for more delicious snacks — and while these smoothies are still fairly sugar-heavy, they’re almost certainly better than whatever packaged treat I’m likely to grab otherwise when I’m hungry and set loose in a grocery store.