The Vitamix blender has become a dream kitchen gadget for many foodies. Invented in 1922, the first blender was originally developed to make malted milkshakes. While they were somewhat popular, they didn’t really take off until after World War II, when a later model was created to crush ice. Chilled daiquiris, anyone?
While blenders attracted masses with booze, they have become the new go-to tool for consumers trying to increase their intake of nutritious foods, especially fruits and vegetables, lickety-split. And for good reason: High-end models can pulverize a pile of produce in seconds, bringing convenience to the daunting chore of eating for health.
“Driving the trend is Americans’ growing desire to eat healthier and buy tools that help them prepare natural foods,” says Debra Mednick, home industry analyst for the NPD Group.
Roughly 85 percent of U.S. households own at least one blender, but NPD Group reported sales saw an incredible boost in 2011, with blenders grating, stirring, and crushing their way up 71 percent across the country. No doubt inspired by the juice cleanse craze that caught on during the same time, Americans plunked down an estimated $215 million for blenders that year.
The Vitamix Blender Revolution
These devices run the gamut from dainty hand mixers to slick industrial machines that look like they could defy the space-time continuum. One popular model among an ever-growing number of restaurateurs, foodies, and home chefs alike is the Vitamix. Some gourmet chefs apparently say their Vitamix blenders “are more important to them than their knives.”
Most of the popular Vitamix models feature a traditional glass jar with a variable 10-speed dial and a basic Hi/Lo switch. Newer, more expensive versions include five pre-programmed settings, so you can make a smoothie with one gentle tap of a button. Surf online and you’ll quickly notice that the legendary Vitamix blender has achieved “a near-cult-like status,” with net sales to match. In 2012 the company retail figures jumped 52 percent from the year prior, while sales have more than tripled in the last four years.
Why the jump? Vitamix blender spokeswoman Amanda Hayes says the answer is simple: innovative design, a focus on quality, and an ever-growing health consciousness throughout the market.
“A heightened awareness of health concerns (is) causing people to reconsider what they are eating,” says Hayes, who believes blenders are one of the best ways to make quick, healthy meals and drinks.
Design-wise, some of these Vitamixers are rather impressive high-performance appliances. Take the Vitamix Super 5200 for instance; it can do the work of 10 kitchen appliances and perform 35 different processes without any separate attachments. It can chop, cream, grind, churn, blend, and even cook hot soup from scratch with nothing more than its blades spinning at 240 miles per hour (yes, 2-4-0). And it can crush ice like butter in the sun.
Vitamix also pulverizes seeds, stems, and skins, rupturing cell walls and allowing far more nutrient delivery into your body. More produce and less reliance on processed foods, anyone?
Documentaries like Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead – already seen by millions of Netflix subscribers alone – tell compelling stories that link plant-based diets to the reduction of heart disease, diabetes, and other obesity-related illnesses. Meanwhile, the internet is replete with blender recipes for delicious smoothies, soups, nut butters, and other concoctions.
You claim you can’t cook fresh, healthy meals, or don’t have the time? High-powered blenders eliminate lingering excuses. Can you wash stuff and press a button? Voila, you’re a 21st century healthy gourmet.
The Culinary Gift Of The Gods
According to a May 2013 blender rating in Consumer Reports, the Vitamix blender outmatches other machines in terms of functions, and the only other brand that serves as its competition is the Utah-based Blendtec line.
Blendtecs are comparable in price, power, and versatility, and sales exploded in the wake of the company’s 2006 YouTube video campaign, Will It Blend?, which went viral with a series of infomercials showing Blendtecs liquefying everything from a box of matches to half a chicken.
As impressive (or gross) as that may be, these babies ain’t cheap. This is an investment and testament of your healthy commitment. Vitamix and Blendtec machines range anywhere from $450 for the most widely used base models, to more than $1,000 for machines with the most bells and whistles.
Despite the cost, users like Tess Masters, author of the popular food blog Healthy Blender Recipes, attest that the Vitamix has leveled the playing field in the kitchen, making healthy eating accessible to everyone.
To Masters, who is better known as Blender Girl, Vitamix is a “great culinary gift of the gods.”
Award-winning chef and restaurateur Jonathon Sawyer and his wife, food blogger Amelia Zatik-Sawyer, also swear by their Vitamix blender.
“It is the best tool in terms of horsepower and durability,” says Sawyer, who has used the products professionally for about 15 years.
He and Zatik-Sawyer live in greater Cleveland, also home to Vitamix headquarters. The couple is paving the way for healthy living; they belong to the farm-to-plate movement, and their flagship restaurant, Greenhouse Tavern, is the state’s first green-certified restaurant.
Sawyer uses Vitamix machines to prepare his signature dips, soups, sauces, gravies, vinaigrettes, and raw dressings. His squash fillings for ravioli, for instance, are blended to perfection in the versatile machines. The Vitamix blender is also a hit at home with their children, adds Zatik-Sawyer, author of the Chef’s Widow food blog, for whom smoothies are a morning staple.
“It’s so easy, our daughter can help me put the ingredients in,” says Zatik-Sawyer, who believes blending healthy and/or unusual foods into tasty concoctions has helped make the children more open to trying new foods. “Our kids have an ever-evolving diet, but their minds are open. Our rule is that they have to try things at least once.”
Fair disclosure: The Sawyers were paid to appear on the Vitamix website touting the blenders, but they say their enthusiasm is nothing but genuine. Masters is also featured on the company’s website, starring in its recipe and technique demonstration videos.
“I was thrilled because I’d used Vitamix for years,” Masters says. “Partnering with them was a dream come true.”
The reasons behind such enthusiastic brand loyalty can be difficult to pinpoint, but one reason may be simply because Vitamix was one of the first high-powered blenders of its kind on the market, according to Dr. Gary Hunter, marketing professor at Case Western Reserve University.
“They had what we call ‘pioneering advantages,’ and have been able to reap a number of benefits over the long haul,” Hunter says. “The company’s early innovations like heating helped ensure long-term success. For many years, Vitamix blenders were the only choice on the market, and appealed to culinary innovators who in turn helped to establish their brand.”
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‘Papa’ Was A Blending Visionary
In 1921, just as stores were beginning to sell more factory-processed foods, a traveling salesman from Ohio named William Grover “Papa” Barnard witnessed a friend recover from an illness simply by changing his diet. Papa soon became a health food pioneer, selling modern kitchen products across the country and teaching people the importance of healthy eating.
In 1937, he created a stir at the Great Lakes Exposition in Ohio with his enthusiastic demonstration of an amazing new product: the first VitaMix Blender. He could see the potential that blenders had to transform lives by allowing people to quickly prepare healthy meals. From then on, Papa zeroed in on selling this new product, now dubbed the “Vitamix.”
Papa wasn’t just ahead of his time in promoting healthy eating (remember, this is back when doctors prescribed smoking for increased vim and vigor). He is also credited for creating one of the nation’s first infomercials in 1949. Dressed in full suit and tie, with a plethora of fruits before him, he promised to introduce viewers to “the most wonderful machine ever invented.”
Later Vitamix blender infomercials ran for years in the 1980s, quickly becoming an icon of kitschy television thanks to the bouncy, ever-excitable image of fitness guru Richard Simmons. Those same infomercials also inspired “Saturday Night Live”‘s Bass-o-matic skit, where Dan Ackroyd uses a blender on a fish to create a muddy concoction that was “MMMmmm, good bass!”
Papa’s business officially became the Vitamix Corporation in 1955. The company, headquartered in the Cleveland suburb of Olmsted Township, is still under the direction of the third and fourth generation of the Barnard family. And the company’s products, which are sold in more than 75 countries, are still assembled by hand.
“The reality these days is that most appliances are designed to break,” Masters laments. “Vitamix blenders are American-made by an assembly line of human hands.”
That’s quality you can toast to, preferably with a great smoothie.
By Julia Arnold-Hess, HoneyColony Original