Jamba Juice New Items and Test Kitchen Bonanza

Jamba Juice Headquarters

Jamba Juice Headquarters

Disclosure: Some of you may know this about me some of you may not but I have been openly anti-Jamba Juice with regards to their “healthy” image.  Yes they have food items that can be good for you and yes of course they are better than other fast food restaurants (as a matter of fact Zagat just rated them #1 Healthy option in the Quick Refreshment category in their 2009 Fast Food Survey) but I feel that they somewhat mislead the uninformed…and by uninformed I mean the typical American trying to be “healthy”.  They tout their offerings as good for you but some of them clearly are not, a 30oz Chocolate Moo’d Power Smoothie has 900 calories and 166 g sugar!  That’s more sugar in two pints of some Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.  In fact a whopping 75% of their “power smoothies” contain over 100 grams of sugar.  Now you and I both realize that these particular items aren’t healthy but what would normally be considered a shake between meals has now magically become a smoothie as an after workout replenishment or a meal replacement.  I will stop with the rant now but I did want to give you an idea as to how I viewed Jamba prior to this event.

Jamba Juice Patio

Jamba Juice Patio

I could have broken this up into several posts but seeing as to how they will be releasing the new menu additions on Monday I figured I’d slap it all into one. That being said you may be in for the long haul here.  Now buckle up because I’m going to take you for a ride (literally) of my trip through the test kitchens of the international headquarters of Jamba Juice located in Emeryville, CA (sounds cooler that way but really it’s just a 55 minute drive up the interstate from me).

How did this all start?  Well you may have noticed Ryan’s tweets and posts.  He got an offer a few days ago to be flown out to California in order to see and taste new offerings from Jamba Juice prior to their release.  He was all set to go, even had a trip to the fabled Pizza Party planned, but sadly he wasn’t able to make his flight.  This is where my oddities and insomnia finally paid off.  I tried to sleep in this morning but I was up at my regular time of 4:14 AM PST, 7:14 AM EST for Ryan.  He sent a tweet that he wasn’t going to be able to make it out.  After a little correspondence I brought up that, headquarters willing, I might be able to go in his stead.  Quickly on the horn and Ryan had it all okayed.  Although no consolation to actually getting to serve Ryan a BBQ Chicken pizza of my own I was off on my way up the 880.

I arrived earlier than the other bloggers (there were roughly ten of us, Food Beast, Fast Food News & Epic Portions were all there, the rest were girly health blogs and I didn’t know them :P) as I was local and traffic was pretty light.  I walked around a little bit, bugged the staff, used the restroom (it was a long drive) and took some pictures.  The key to the restroom was a cool “smart” key…I felt like I was in a top secret lab….and maybe I was.

Men's Room Smart Key

Men's Room Smart Key

This place was like the 2000 web 2.0 start-up Silicon Valley version of the Wonka Factory. I hate to say it but it seemed like they were trying too hard to be cool.  It was kind of like the soccer mom that drives her teenage daughter to the mall, sings all the lyrics to “The Real Slim Shady” on the way over and upon arrival makes an excuse to go inside but really just wants to hang with the girls.
We started with a primer of Jamba Juice beginning with the derivation of the name. Jamba is an altered form of “jama” which in Swahili means “to celebrate”. We also learned that the company began as a Cal Poly finals project for cofounders Joe Vergara, Kevin Peters, and Linda Ozawa Olds in 1990 (it originally was named Juice Club). They started expanding to different areas of California and in the late 90s spread nationwide. They now have something like 800 stores in the US (300 or so which are franchises).
Headquarters Lobby

Headquarters Lobby

Front Desk

Front Desk

We got to tour through the test kitchen.  There wasn’t too much special or interesting here, it was really just the same as a regular Jamba Juice kitchen.  One of the cool things was a tasting room that used red lighting as to not sway the eaters judgment.
Red Light Tasting Room

Red Light Tasting Room

Test Kitchen Sink

Test Kitchen Sink

Test Kitchen Stoves

Test Kitchen Stoves

Test Kitchen Ovens

Test Kitchen Ovens

Test Kitchen Freezers

Test Kitchen Freezers

Test Kitchen Testing Tables

Test Kitchen Testing Tables

Test Kitchen Juicer

Test Kitchen Juicer

Okay enough of all that stuff…on to the food.  The new menu items (only available initially in their Northern & Southern California markets but with plans to offer them in others soon) are in three categories Fruit Tea Infusions (Pomegranate, Passion Fruit, Prickly Pear), Grab and Go (Asian Style Chicken Wrap, Chimichurri Chicken Wrap, Greens and Grain Chicken Wrap, Greek Goodness Chicken Wrap, Gobble’licious, Couscous & Produce, Caesar the Day!) and their California Flatbreads (Four Cheesy, Smokehouse Chicken, Tomo Artichoko, MediterraneYUM).

Fruit Tea Infusions (nutrition facts for 24 oz.)

Passion Fruit Tea Infusion

Passion Fruit Tea Infusion

Pomegranate Tea Infusion

Pomegranate Tea Infusion

Pomegranate – Calories: 240 – Total Fat: 0 grams – Sugars: 53 grams
GrubGrade: 5.50/10 (Mediocre)

Passion Fruit – Calories: 230 – Total Fat: 0 grams – Sugars: 48 grams
GrubGrade: 5.00/10 (Mediocre)

Prickly Pear – Calories: 230 – Total Fat: 0 grams – Sugars: 49 grams
GrubGrade: 5.50/10 (Mediocre)

To me these weren’t all that spectacular.  Cutting through all the marketing speak, it’s simply green tea, lemonade and juice of whichever flavor each is.  Most of the others enjoyed them all but to me they tasted like watered down juice.  Very similar to the zero calorie “fruit-infused” waters….now I may be alone in the assessment but that’s how I viewed them. I’m pretty such everyone else really loved these, especially the women in the group (which was the majority).  I must say I’m impressed with how simple the ingredient list for these is….and that they contain real juice!

Grab and Go ($5.50 )

Asian Style Chicken Wrap – Calories: 430 – Total Fat: 7 grams – Sugars: 13 grams – Protein: 19 grams
The chicken was rubbery and dry (not quite sure how they pulled that off) and did not seem fresh.  The sauce was a water based mango vinaigrette and was awesome, I could have taken shot after shot of that by itself. If they figure out that chicken problem this thing could be a 10.
GrubGrade:  6.50/10  (Average)

Asian Style Chicken Wrap

Asian Style Chicken Wrap

Chimichurri Chicken Wrap – Calories: 560 – Total Fat: 25 grams – Sugars: 5 grams – Protein: 22 grams
Again the chicken was no good to me…it just seemed fake or processed. The chimichurri sauce was just okay. Most of the others there really liked this one (Food Beast in particular, he wouldn’t stop about it :P).
GrubGrade: 6.50/10  (Average)

Chimichurri Chicken Wrap

Chimichurri Chicken Wrap

Greens and Grain Chicken Wrap – Calories: 640 – Total Fat: 14 grams – Sugars: 12 grams – Protein: 19 grams
This was epic! I loved everything about this one, not only was it amazingly tasty it is also vegan! The sauce was the same water based mango vinaigrette. I could eat this every day.
GrubGrade:  9.50/10  (GrubGrade Hall of Fame)

Greens and Grain Wrap

Greens and Grain Wrap

Greek Goodness Chicken Wrap – Calories: 550 – Total Fat: 26 grams – Sugars: 10 grams – Protein: 15 grams
This was pretty tasty but the kalamata olives were a bit over powering. The only problem with all of these new items is that they are pre-packaged, not made to order, and you can’t substitute or eliminate ingredients. Of course you can always pick out the things you don’t like but that wasn’t a very clean solution and somewhat defeats the “Grab and Go” concept.
GrubGrade:  7.50/10  (Good)

Greek Goodness Wrap

Greek Goodness Wrap

Gobble’licious – Calories: 570 – Total Fat: 28 grams – Sugars: 7 grams – Protein: 28 grams
I thought this would be a bit more turkeyie but really it wasn’t half bad. The focacetta (their mix of bread and terms not mine) roll was good, a bit on the sweet side. It comes with a dijonaise sauce that I wish were just dijon and didn’t have the unnecessary addition of mayonnaise.
GrubGrade:  6.50/10  (Average)

Gobble'licious

Gobble'licious

Couscous & Produce – Calories: 480 – Total Fat: 19 grams – Sugars: 34 grams – Protein: 11 grams
This was incredibly delicious. The mix of everything was fantastic, the couscous, jicama, bell peppers, currants and almonds worked so well together. The currents added a nice sweet and chewy touch. The whole grain mustard dressing was a perfect compliment.
GrubGrade:  9.50/10  (GrubGrade Hall of Fame)

Couscous & Produce Package

Couscous & Produce Package

Couscous & Produce Salad

Couscous & Produce Salad

Caesar the Day! – Calories: 330 – Total Fat: 22 grams – Sugars: 2 grams – Protein: 16 grams
I was pretty disappointed in this, it’s not too hard to make an acceptable chicken Caesar but this one lacked a few essential ingredients, one being anchovies…..and the other?…chicken! I jest but in all honesty there were literally 3 very small cubes of chicken in my entire bowl, granted the packaged ones had more chicken but what I was served was sorely lacking. It was very plain and quite bland really. No kick or ka-pow.
GrubGrade:  4.50/10  (Poor)

Caesar the Day! Package

Caesar the Day! Package

Caesar the Day! Salad

Caesar the Day! Salad

California Flatbreads ($3.50 – $3.75)
Four Cheesy – Calories: 330 – Total Fat: 13 grams – Sugars: 3 grams – Protein: 17 grams
GrubGrade:  3.50/10  (GrubGrade Hall of Shame)

Four Cheesy

Four Cheesy

Smokehouse Chicken – Calories: 300 – Total Fat: 8 grams – Sugars: 4 grams – Protein: 15 grams
GrubGrade:  4.50/10  (Poor)

Smokehouse Chicken

Smokehouse Chicken

Tomo Artichoko – Calories: 310 – Total Fat: 11 grams – Sugars: 4 grams – Protein: 11 grams
GrubGrade:  6.00/10  (Average)

Tomo Artichoko

Tomo Artichoko

MediterraneYUM – Calories: 250 – Total Fat: 8 grams – Sugars: 4 grams – Protein: 10 grams
GrubGrade:  7.50/10  (Good)

MediterraneYUM

MediterraneYUM

Well as I’m sure you all know, I own my own pizza parlor so this was tough for me to be objective about…I’m pretty much a pizza snob. One thing they wanted to make clear is that these were NOT pizzas though, they were California Flatbreads…yeah okay, don’t get me started on semantics.

Firstly, they arrive frozen to the store and the teenager behind the counter throws them in a timed oven once you order it. They wouldn’t tell me the specs (temperature, etc.) of the ovens but they are the same as you’d find in a Subway or McDonalds. I really must say, aside from the MediterraneYUM, all the flatbreads tasted like a reheated frozen pizza, which of course they are and which in my opinion you can get much better ones at your local supermarket. They were like a higher quality Totino’s. The “crusts” were not crusty at all and most of them were not cooked all the way through, they were quite chewy.  They were all lacking ample sauce.  I could probably go on and on about each of these and that is precisely why I chose to lump them all together. The others seemed to enjoy their flatbreads but coming from my background it was hard for me not to weigh them against a quality pizza…..even if these are not pizzas :P.

I do give them credit for attempting this and I know people will actually buy them. Considering their ingredients and calorie count I would say they are pretty impressive overall. I know it’s tough to have a product nationwide taste and look the same especially with their typical high school kid with 2 weeks of training in the back cooking them. I’m happy to see that Jamba is venturing out and really trying to expand their offerings. One of the cool things about the tasting is they really wanted our input and feedback. You could tell that they really listened to what we said and took it into consideration. Although these are being rolled out Monday, June 15th, expect to see small changes before they go nationwide with them.

I also sampled the Blueberry Bliss Smoothie and the Steel Cut Oatmeal with Bananas, both of which have been available for some time now. The smoothie was good, nothing bad nothing exceptional, tasted like a blueberry smoothie.  The oatmeal was terrific! I eat oatmeal every single day for breakfast…and I do mean every single day. The oatmeal was cooked with soy milk and a small amount of sugar. They have various mix-ins, bananas, apples and blueberries all of which come with a brown sugar topping which makes it more of a dessert. I opted to have mine sans topping.

Blueberry Bliss Smoothie

Blueberry Bliss Smoothie

Steel Cut Oatmeal with Bananas

Steel Cut Oatmeal with Bananas

All in all the experience was fantastic. Thanks to Ryan for giving me his press pass and thanks to the Jamba Juice PR team for having all of us out.  They have a new website that is trying to tag-along with all the social media/Twitter/Facebook/Viral hype, SummerBlissIsBack.com – where you can start your “fakecation”.  They will be adding new things shortly like a viral video creator so check back shortly.  You can also get the word of the day to receive a $1 off certain items.  Here are a few more photos and some videos:
Bloggers in the Test Kitchen

Bloggers in the Test Kitchen

Picnic Lunch Bag

Picnic Lunch Bag

Jamba Swag

Jamba Swag

As I mentioned at the beginning, I was going to take you all on a ride (literally), well while attempting to weave my way back to 880 South towards the comfortable confines of my lovely home, this happened:

Weeping Prius

Weeping Prius

What occurred you ask…some smart driver decided to flip a U-turn across a double yellow line directly in front of me. I slammed on my brakes but alas, there was not enough space. Luckily no one was injured and the damage was minimal.  I am very impressed with Toyota and their safety design, it all worked flawlessly.  There were several witnesses that all said it was the other drivers fault and of course insurance will cover everything.  I was able to drive the hour and a half home (traffic….which turned out okay because I was able to file the insurance claim during the ride back) and I guess my baby will be alright in a couple weeks. It could have been worse.

Whew, quite a post there. If you made it this far, congratulations. So what did I think all-in-all?  Considering my prejudice going into this I must say that I am overall hugely impressed with Jamba Juice and their new options. The calorie counts on these new products are down right slim, they’re definitely a great healthy option, especially to a burger and fries. As an added note, they use only canola oil in their products (dressings and such) and there are 0 grams of trans fats. Also they use no artificial flavors, artificial sweeteners (aside from a “diet” drink or two with Splenda) and they use real, actual, honest to God juice in their drinks which sadly is a rarity these days. Thanks to the great staff at Jamba Juice for having us again. I recommend to everyone out there that they give these new options a shot, I know you will find something to enjoy, and like George Zimmerman, I guarantee you’ll be impressed…especially if you weren’t so before.

Aside from the ending, the day was fantastic and I’m really enjoying myself as I get to write for GrubGrade, thanks again guys!

18 comments on “Jamba Juice New Items and Test Kitchen Bonanza

  1. rob says:

    Seems kind of like a Starbuck’s approach to food in that they don’t make anything on the premises.

  2. At least your ok Bear! Car accidents aren’t fun, I know from experience. Your baby will be ok too. She’ll look good as new. I’ve never had Jamba Juice but now I am interested in trying it. Besides the car accident glad you had an good time!

  3. Ryan says:

    Thanks again for bailing me out Bear. Sorry that my bad luck travelled out to you and your car. Great write-up. You did GG proud. Out of the new items, I think I’d like to try the Greek Goodness Wrap and the MediterraneYum Flatbread the most…the part-Greek in me does that. Although there were some hits and misses, all those wraps looks pretty appetizing.

  4. jonathan says:

    I loved the blog. I didn’t realize you wrote it until the end. I was imagining the craziest, hippest foodbloggster ever. I was pleasantly suprised when I saw it was you.

  5. Allison says:

    i don’t know how much I trust your taste in food-especially since you said you would take shots of the sauce stuff (eww!) 🙂 But I think i would actually try a few of these!

    This is a very informative post. Major bonus points for adding calorie count and nutrition info! I can’t believe their other drinks have that many calories or that much sugar!!! Totally agree that it is good that they are trying-I like it. I really liked the amount of information and the honestly of what you thought of all the items. I will for sure try the oatmeal at least! 🙂

  6. Adam says:

    Haha I love Bear’s perspective on things. Good work dude, and sorry about the car!

  7. James says:

    Awesome review Bear!!!

  8. brad says:

    Good coverage, Bear. Sorry to hear about your car! A lot of those foods look fantastic.

  9. @rob – I agree. They do say that the items are made locally for each market though. This way they can sell them in Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, etc.

    @Erin Brooks – Thanks, I’m glad I didn’t get hurt either. You’re right 🙂

    @Ryan – Not a problem. I loved doing it 😛

    I would love to hear your opinion of the items….they might take a bit to get to your market…maybe New York soon.

    @jonathan – Thanks bud. I’m loving writing for GrubGrade.

    @Allison – Haha 😛 Thanks!

    @Adam – Thanks man!

    @James – Thanks chief!

    @brad – Thanks pal! They are, are you in California where they’ll be out?

  10. Nice job Bear, real nice. I have to admit, I have never tried Jamba and never really cared to, but as I look at healthier items, I will add it to my list. Lol on “the rest were girly healthy blogs” I think that Pizza Party needs to invite us out to the test kitchen.

  11. Bear Silber says:

    @WIBIA – Honestly, give ’em a shot.

    Oh man! You’re always welcome to the Pizza Party kitchen!

  12. Penny says:

    Fantastic review, Bear!

  13. brenda says:

    damn… these food items look so good 🙂
    im impressed by the low calories and high amount of protein!! cant wait to try them out. thanks for an amazing review 🙂 jamba for lifeee lol

  14. @Penny – Thanks!

    @Brenda – I know, right? Thanks! Fo liiiiiiife!

  15. Heather says:

    @Bear-Sorry about your car 🙁 Glad you are ok though. It was great that you were able to attend as a representative of GrubGrade. We are so glad to have you as part of our team.

    I have never been to a Jamba Juice, but I hear there is one in DC. I’ll have to get down there one day and try it. I think the Greek Goodness Chicken Wrap sounds good. I’d also like to try the
    Smokehouse Chicken and Tomo Artichoko Flatbreads.

    Great Post!

  16. @Heather – Thanks. I love being part of the team. It was a blasty blast repping ya’ll 🙂

    Honestly, give them a shot. I don’t think they’ll be available for a bit in your market but I know they’re working on it and it will happen.

  17. Oh no! I’m glad you’re OK. I hate car accidents. Well, not that anyone likes them. But the whole hassle of dealing with insurance and getting the car fixed and worse when there’s an injury. 🙁

  18. Bear Silber says:

    @Wandering Chopsticks – Yeah, all true. Thanks for your kind words. It all turned out okay and will be fine. Here’s a short update:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/bearsilber/3640046808/

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