Six Flavors C-Stores Can Safely Add to Summer Frozen Drinks

Gina (Nicholson) Kramer, RS/REHS, president, Savor Safe Food and executive director, Savour Food Safety International Inc., and Tara Riley, food scientist and director of quality and food safety for Savour Food Safety International Inc.

When making frozen beverages, c-stores can safely take advantage of trendy summer flavors.

By Gina (Nicholson) Kramer and Tara Riley

Summer is the time for cool eats and festive treats. And, convenience store customers will crave the latest flavor sensations for frozen smoothies and milkshakes as they strive to combat rising temperatures.

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The best smoothie and milkshake flavors are delicious, healthy and safe. Some C-stores, however, rely on cake and brownie mixes to create trendy new flavors, which can potentially place their customers at risk for foodborne illness since these mixes were never intended for consumption without proper heating. And nothing beyond heating the mix at the temperature indicated on the product box for the recommended length of time will destroy bacteria – not even freezing.

Safe and healthy flavor alternatives are available to create delicious summer beverages without the risk of foodborne illness.

Healthy is the Rage
Today’s consumers demand foods that are clean label (consumer perception of healthy), fresh and flavorful. They strive for overall good health via nutritious foods, an active lifestyles and disease prevention.

Many consumers agree with Hippocrates’ words: let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food. This is why consumers of all ages often choose products containing ingredients they perceive as nutritious, including fresh fruits and vegetables, nut milk, yogurt and honey.

Healthy, however, is not as simple as consuming whole or wholesome foods. C-stores must also consider food safety as foodborne illness can adversely impact an individual’s health in the long term, which is opposite of what health-conscious consumers want to achieve.

Creating Flavor Experiences
Food in itself can create a sensational sensory experience, imparting robust, pleasant smells. Aromatherapy is a real part of food preparation, which is why more consumers are adding herbs and spices to entrees and snacks. Fresh flavors such as lavender and ginger, for example, pack a savory punch and create complexity in mainstream flavors like strawberry and blueberry.

Below are trendy summer flavors – and new takes on old favorites – that create pleasant sensory experiences and are sure to please.

Lemon is the big flavor this year, offering a bright, tangy and fragrant taste with a hint of floral. The fruit flavoring in most cake mixes is artificial so adding freshly squeezed lemon juice is always the best option to ensure a distinct taste.

Adding lemon zest from the peel enhances the lemon flavor and adds texture to smoothies and milkshakes. Make sure you and your workers thoroughly scrub and rinse the lemon peel (and all fruits) before squeezing the fruit or zesting. You may also substitute frozen lemon juice concentrate for fresh juice, with the concentrate available from your distributor

Honey or agave is an excellent sweetener for lemon and other fruit flavored beverages. Two tablespoons of either ingredient is typically sufficient.

Blueberries are sweeter than blackberries and raspberries and provide a slightly tangy aftertaste. They are colorful, low in calories and high in nutrients including Vitamin C, Vitamin K and antioxidants.

Fresh blueberries are always the best choice for beverages, although frozen blueberry juice concentrate is a tasty option. Make sure you thoroughly wash the fruit before adding or juicing. You may also add corn starch as needed to thicken the mixture without altering the taste.

Adding a teaspoon of pomegranate or a half teaspoon of lemon amplifies the blueberry flavor in smoothies and increases the tanginess. Other fresh fruits or juices such as blackberries, raspberries or strawberries can boost the complexity of the blueberry flavor while increasing the nutrient content.      

Any smoothie or milkshake with a cocoa flavor is a customer favorite year-round. When making a cocoa-flavored beverage, substitute extra dark cocoa for standard cocoa or add hot fudge for a sweeter, richer taste and smoother texture. Expresso or strong coffee provides a hint of mocha and malted milk powder creates a roasted, earthy flavor reminiscent of an old-time soda shop.

Try adding coconut milk and/or coconut sugar to a cocoa-flavored smoothie or milkshake to craft a German chocolate flavor. Or, add a tablespoon each of cranberry, cream cheese and Greek yogurt to extra dark cocoa for a red velvet cake taste, which is always a hit among customers.

Fresh ginger brings a spicy, citrus-like kick to fruit-flavored beverages. It’s versatile and delicious as an ingredient in any sweet menu item, including cupcakes and cookies.

Ginger is a healthy addition that dates back to ancient times when various cultures used it to treat stomach ailments and aid digestion. Studies also suggest ginger has anti-inflammatory properties.

Remember though, a little ginger goes a long way as a flavoring in any food. A half teaspoon to a full teaspoon will probably be sufficient for a smoothie or milkshake.

Lavender is subtle, floral and calming. It is visually colorful and adds complexity to any sweet-flavored smoothie, such as blueberry.

Lavender is often consumed as a tea for its anti-anxiety properties. It contains powerful antioxidants and is recognized for its ability to improve brain function and slow aging. Again, a half teaspoon to one teaspoon of lavender makes a tasty addition to a smoothie or milkshake.

Dates offer a multi-dimensional, sweet flavor that may be used as a substitute for sugar or other sweeteners. The fruit is a bold complement to cocoa flavor and fudge.

The high fiber content of dates lessens the spike in blood sugar and helps sustain energy levels. Studies show the sugar composition of dates also helps stimulate the growth of good gut bacteria. Add two tablespoons of dates to smoothies or milkshakes.

Create Your Own Flavors
Experimenting is the best way to develop scrumptious, healthy summer flavors your customers will desire.The secret is to add ingredients that are safe and impart flavor rather than distracting from the taste. Customers will thank you for delicious and nutritious smoothies and milkshakes that provide new twists to traditional seasonal favorites.

Gina (Nicholson) Kramer, RS/REHS is the president, Savor Safe Food and executive director, Savour Food Safety International Inc. Tara Riley is a food scientist and the director of quality and food safety for Savour Food Safety International Inc. Savor Safe Food focuses on quality assurance/food safety inside c-stores and other businesses. Savour Food Safety International concentrates on quality assurance/food safety from farm to the loading dock of c-stores and other retailers/businesses. For more information, visit: