ROSEMONT, ILL. – A smoothie pilot project for schools launched by the dairy checkoff in 2022 inspired food management company Chartwells K12 to make the program available to every school it works with this year.

Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) shared that the pilot’s results showed increased consumption of milk and yogurt at the 130 schools in 15 states that Chartwells involved in the project.

As part of the pilot, General Mills provided culinary supports and training materials to schools, while foodservice equipment manufacturer Hubert offered blenders and other materials at a discount rate.

Per Chartwells, it serves more than 2 million meals in 4,500 schools representing 665 districts every day in the United States.

“Chartwells is always looking for innovative ways to make sure students leave the cafeteria happier and healthier than they came in,” said Lindsey Palmer, vice president of nutrition and industry relations for Chartwells. “We took insights heard directly from students when we launched the smoothie pilot, offering a popular, delicious, on-the-go meal to help kids power through their day. Smoothies also have the unique benefit of providing multiple meal components and a great opportunity for kids to consume more milk, yogurt and fruits.”

DMI cited research from Technomic that found, among Gen Z consumers, fruit smoothies are more popular than energy drinks, flavored water, juices and soft drinks.

The smoothies offered through the pilot came from recipes put together by chefs at Chartwells and General Mills, with 15 flavors made for breakfast and 15 made for lunch. Each contained at least one of the daily recommended servings of dairy and fruit and was part of the reimbursable school meals program. Flavors included such varieties as dragon fruit banana, mango chili lime and avocado kale mango.

“The goal was to give students something they’re seeking outside of schools and is trendy,” said Lisa Hatch, vice president of school channel sales and business development at DMI. “This smoothie program strengthens the checkoff’s mission of nourishing youth through innovative ways that drives dairy demand in schools.”

DMI shared that a post-pilot survey found the program received “very” positive responses from students, foodservice staff and administrators.

“Through pairing the checkoff’s research with our insights to the evolving preferences of kids, the smoothie pilot provided a great solution for bringing even more excitement to the school cafeteria,” said Sarah Maver, director of wellness and sustainability for Chartwells. “DMI’s goals aligned with ours of looking for creative ways to promote school meals and making sure kids have a variety of choices available.”