Consumers have heard all about the benefits of green vegetables. Yet most people still don't eat enough. You can help customers get more of these veggies' nutrients by selling them on healthy—and tasty—green-drink powders in your supplement aisles. Here's how.
Green with plenty
According to Gerald Cysewski, PhD, chief science officer for Kailua-Kona, Hawaii-based microalgae producer Cyanotech, common green drink mix ingredients include spirulina, wheatgrass, barley grass, chlorella, alfalfa powder, spinach powder and broccoli powder, but some formulations may contain more than 20 different ingredients. The purpose of green mixes is to provide convenient, very concentrated plant-based nutrition," he says. "One serving of green mix can provide the phytonutrients found in three to five servings of fruits or vegetables," which goes a long way toward the National Cancer Institute and National Institutes of Health recommended goal of nine servings per day.
Green-drink mixes are great for the modern, on-the-go lifestyle, as well as for children or adults who cannot or will not swallow tablets, says Guinevere Lynn, director of business development for Sun Chlorella USA, a division of Kyoto, Japan-based Sun Chlorella Corp., which produces chlorella green algae products. The mixes are added to juices, water, milk or smoothies—any liquid of choice will generally work well.
Brooke Alpert, RD, a New York City–based founder of B Nutritious nutrition counseling practice, says green-drink mixes can be a good source of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals. According to Cysewski, "These phytonutrients include carotenoids such as beta-carotene, zeaxanthin, lutein and lycopene; enzymes like super-oxide dismutase; chlorophyll and plant-based omega-3 fatty acids."
But some types of mixes are better than others. "Bear in mind that organic is preferred," says Goldstein, "as is cold-water processing and low-temperature dehydration, which will retain more of the heat-sensitive nutrients and enzymes." Similarly, she says that cold-case green drinks can suffer a decrease in nutrient levels due to the required pasteurization.
Green drinks can be off-putting—in color and flavor. But they've come a long way, according to Todd Habermehl, cofounder of San Francisco–based Amazing Grass, which makes organic green superfood mixes, supplements and energy bars. "I went to my brother's, and he was playing Fear Factor with his kids to get them to drink Uncle Todd's green food," he says. "We created a kids' version with a nutritionist and put cocoa in there, which has a lot of great benefits as well as hiding look and taste."
Andrew Jacobson, former Cyanotech president and CEO, likens the product development of green mixes to his time as president of Westbrae Natural Foods, selling soymilk. "When I came into Westbrae, it was 1992," says Jacobson. "It was $3.29 for soymilk being made overseas and sold in a container that consumers scratched their heads saying, ‘How do I get into this thing?' Plus, it didn't taste good." As the taste and nutrient profile of soymilk developed—as well as demos "everywhere"—people got over their fear. "Look where soymilk is now. It competes with fluid white milk," Jacobson says. "It's in every supermarket in the United States, every natural grocery store, Walmart and Costco. It's gotten into the fabric of the U.S. consumer's life."
Good to the last drop
Like soy, green foods are part of the history of natural foods. "Greens have been around for 30 years," Habermehl says. "It's not a fad. Some products just come and go, but greens don't. They're here to stay." And one major reason greens have created such a lasting impression on the marketplace is their effectiveness. "They provide a physical experience with so many people," he says. "People call all the time and say, 'This has changed my life. I want to cry.'"
Stock up on green drinks
Amazing Grass Green SuperFood
Along with spirulina, chlorella, wheatgrass, barley and alfalfa, these green-food powder blends include ingredients such as maca, açaí, Siberian eleuthero root and more. Chocolate "kid" versions are available. Made with organic ingredients.
Cyanotech Hawaiian Spirulina Pacifica
Spirulina is a microscopic blue-green algae that contains protein, mixed carotenoids, vitamins, gamma-linolenic acid, iron and essential amino acids. Cyanotech also produces the ingredient BioAstin Natural Astaxanthin, an antioxidant made from microalgae. Pesticide and herbicide free.
Jarrow Formulas Green Defense
Loaded with barley, wheat and oat grass, as well as spirulina and other veggie powders, this mix also contains detoxifying botanicals such as milk thistle, green tea, grapeseed and ginkgo biloba. Includes many organic ingredients.
New Chapter Berry Green
More of a veggie greens powder, Berry Green contains spinach, kale, parsley, broccoli and more. Many of the ingredients are cultured before freeze-drying, which the company says not only gives its product a probiotic edge, but helps maintain it. Made with organic ingredients.
These ready-to-mix granules are made from Chlorella pyrenoidosa, which contains chlorella growth factor, a nucleotide-peptide complex that's found only in chlorella.
Vibrant Health Green Vibrance
Includes 65 ingredients. The latest version has 1,000 IU of vitamin D3, plus 25 billion colony-forming units of probiotics, including Propionibacterium shermanii, in each serving.