November 11, 2011 9:55 pm

The taste test: Strawberry and banana smoothies

The winner was ‘smoother than Bryan Ferry’, with ‘strong, confident flavours’. But which was it?

We all remember being taken strawberry picking as a child. We could not resist eating rather more than we put in the basket. And then that terrible gut ache – a just dessert following such wicked greed. Tasting strawberry and banana smoothies we began to feel the same way. What causes it, we wondered – the pips, the acid, the fibre? I went online to find out, but this was a mistake. Amid the self-reverential chit-chat that is the worldwide web, I found any number of auto-diagnosing neurotics blogging about their allergies, hives, etc, but no clear answer. A consultant then told me he did not know why and a medical student speculated it might be the overdose of vitamin C. If you have the definitive cause, let me know. In the meantime we recommend only one glass at a time.

We tasted 10 smoothies from food manufacturers, supermarkets and sandwich chains. Our panel was appropriately comprised of three old smoothies: the Gluttonous Pig (GP), the Gourmet Celeb (GC) and the Carnivorous Undergraduate (CU). On the appointed day the CU already had a stomach upset – merely the thought of so much strawberry juice may have provoked his alimentary canal. So we postponed for a couple of days. This meant the sample sent by the market leader, Innocent, was going to be past its use-by date. I bought a fresh carton to ensure fair play, but left both in the blind tasting just to see if there would be a difference. The result was instructive.

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The general standard was good. There were, as ever, a few stinkers: “wet old shoes” (CU); “turps” (GC); “like molten lava, and equally acrid” (GP). Three products, we felt, might consider reformulating their smoothies. Bertrams Smoothie Strawberry Banana Apple tasted a bit too syrupy and cloying: “the contents of a sweet shop” (GC). It had by far the longest use-by date (to last another three months from our tasting) and one of the lowest amounts of strawberry purée, at 18 per cent. Whatever they had done to stabilise it did it no favours. Sundance Strawberry and Banana Pure Fruit Smoothie did not seem to have much depth of flavour – it also had an unusual nose: “rhubarby!” (GP). Most of the products used apple juice to bulk them out, but the better ones specified “not from concentrate” or “fresh-pressed”. Since Sundance did not, it might be the nature of their apple juice that disappointed us. And Pret A Manger’s Super Natural Smoothie generously contained the most strawberry, at 50 per cent. But we questioned whether this might not be too much: “overpowering”(CU).

Honourable mentions for Waitrose Strawberry and Banana Smoothie (“the fruit is certainly there” – GC); Eat’s Strawberry and Banana Smoothie, where its novel addition of raspberries was spotted (“nice”– GP) and Asda’s Strawberry and Banana Smoothie, whose orange juice element found favour (“citrusy” – CU). Third, and not doing badly for a product past its use-by date, was the older Innocent Strawberries and Bananas Pure Fruit Smoothie: “real strawberry taste and lovely level of seeds”(CU); “a touch bland”(GC). Second was Sainsbury’s Strawberry and Banana Smoothie: “genuine, defined flavours” (GP); “very good” (CU).

And the winner ... which was, indeed, the other, fresher Innocent smoothie. “Hurrah! Definitely made of fresh strawberries” (GC); “strong, confident flavours” (CU); “smoother than Bryan Ferry” (GP). So the market leader won – good for them. Equally interesting was the discernible gap between their aged smoothie and the fresher version. For best results drink up before the specified date. But remember – one glass at a time, please.

ftweekendmagazine@ft.com

Peter Bazalgette on how he self-published a book on Egon Ronay in Life & Arts

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The winners:

1. Innocent, Strawberries and Bananas Pure Fruit Smoothie, £2.79 (750ml), www.innocentdrinks.co.uk

2. Sainsbury’s, Strawberry and Banana Smoothie, £2.29 (1L), www.sainsburys.co.uk

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