I Was Skeptical of Vitamix Blender Evangelists. Now I’m One of Them.

What to eat. What not to eat.
Oct. 20 2013 11:37 PM

Can a $400 Blender Change Your Life?

Yes.

(Continued from Page 1)

I understood why some might shell out extra for a quieter model when I turned my Vitamix on for the first time: It sounded like I’d started a chain saw in my kitchen. During one of my inaugural smoothie attempts, the air from the motor’s fan actually began to push it across my kitchen counter.

Intimidated, I decided to start my experiment with some “easy” recipes from the Vitamix cookbook (yes, the recipes go up to “advanced”): a garden cocktail, a spinach and strawberry smoothie, a strawberry and spinach lassi, a peach and banana shake. They were indeed easy—unlike my previous blender, which required constant stopping and restarting to coax the chunks of food into the blades, the Vitamix devoured whatever I put into it. (And unlike a juicer, which extracts liquid and leaves valuable roughage behind, the Vitamix turns everything into drinkable form, including fiber.)

At lunch and dinner, I supplemented my smoothies with Vitamixed soups that I’d learned about from my machine’s accompanying DVD, a half-hour guided tutorial led by a woman who welcomed me to the “family” in front of a countertop display of fresh vegetables. (“This is definitely much more than a machine,” she said. “It’s a complete lifestyle.”) As I worked my way through tortilla soup, kale and leek, and—my favorite—broccoli and cheese, I also experimented with a Vitamix-condoned, if somewhat terrifying, shortcut: using the Vitamix to heat up soups as you make them. (Its blades rotate so quickly and produce so much friction that if you leave it running for six minutes, the liquid will get hot enough to produce steam.)

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I made hummus in the Vitamix; I ground almond butter. I blended watermelon lemonade for a barbecue. I chopped vegetables (on lower speeds, the Vitamix can also work as a food processor).  As I gained confidence, I began straying from the official Vitamix recipe book, tossing in any piece of partially wilted produce that happened to be in my fridge. Extra zucchini? Throw it in the Vitamix. Droopy chard? Blend away! I began to use the Vitamix almost like a garbage disposal, the main difference being that I drank what it produced.

When the Vitamix company commissioned a consulting firm to do an online market segmentation study in 2009, it found that of 393 Vitamix owners polled, each person had recommended the Vitamix to 13.4 other people. Holly Hacker, Vitamix’s director of direct sales and customer experience, says this number was so high that the researchers insisted on double-checking the data. At first I doubted the number myself, but within three days of ownership I had made smoothies for my in-laws and husband, endorsed the machine to my office manager, raved about it to friends, and invited my parents over specifically for a Vitamix-themed lunch. When my mother, a former nurse, refused my blueberry-kale smoothie on the grounds that it looked like bile, I felt as if she were rejecting my new boyfriend. Eager to gain her approval, I whipped up some strawberry sorbet instead.

* * *

In 2010 the company put together a book called Gratitude, a collection of stories and Vitamix testimonials in honor of its 90th anniversary. In addition to an odd hodgepodge of celebrity endorsements (including Jason Mraz, Gabrielle Reece, and an executive producer of the Lord of the Rings trilogy), the book is filled with touching personal stories of regular Vitamix users who claimed the machines had changed their lives.

There’s the couple who met when the man invited over his co-worker—and now wife—for a pizza whose ingredients he’d prepped in his Vitamix (“Every time we see a Vitamix demonstration, Craig and I both get sentimental”), the woman who had nursed her sick hound back to health with Vitamix-blended raw chicken (“Even my dog loves Vitamix”), and the mother who claims that if her house were to catch fire, she would “grab [her] family members and [her] Vitamix on the way out.” Another woman referred to her Vitamix as a “God-sent gift.”

And if this just sounds like marketing fluff, I suggest doing a Twitter search for Vitamix. (Or, for that matter, scanning the official Vitamix Facebook page, which has more than 93,000 “likes.”) “They are not paying me to say this, but I LOVE my Vitamix blender,” tweeted one user. “Making a Vitamix smoothie from just picked berries from my garden makes me so happy, I’m dancing in the kitchen!” wrote another.

People tweet about hugging their Vitamixes. They post their favorite recipes (sample title: “Cucumber Joy”), and share photographs of bright green smoothies. And it’s not just vegan, yoga-loving women, either. “I talk about my Vitamix blender the way Jay-Z talks about watches,” tweeted one male Vitamix fan. Another man, after claiming to have Vitamixed his vodka, boasted that he had “just dominated a pair of bananas”—the smoothie version of pounding your chest.

Why the Vitamania? Part of people’s enthusiasm likely has to do with the pleasure of using such a well-built machine. (Four million households in the United States have Vitamixes, but the company’s repair department has only four employees.) Prep and cleanup are easy, and there’s something satisfyingly science-project-y about trying to blend everything in sight. But perhaps the Vitamix’s greatest appeal lies in its ability to perform nutritional magic. We all know we should be eating more vegetables, but we prefer to drink smoothies. The Vitamix allows us to do both: What starts as an obligation gets blended into a treat.

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On day five, I finally broke my Vitamix streak with a plate of lamb shawarma—an event that gave me a chance to reflect on what had happened to me over the previous days. The strangest thing, I decided, was not the array of frozen produce that had ended up in my usually empty freezer (from kale to mango to fire-roasted corn). It wasn’t the fact that I had forced a spinach-pineapple-ginger smoothie on my brother-in-law, or that I’d bought a special pair of noise-reducing earmuffs to use while blending (a Vitamix on high is typically in the 84-decibel range, which puts it somewhere between a passing motorcycle and a loud vacuum cleaner), or that I’d proposed—in all seriousness—that my husband and I take the Vitamix with us on vacation.

The strangest thing was that by the fifth day, by which point I had consumed at least 20 Vitamixed smoothies and soups—and by which point my husband revealed that I’d served him so many blended liquids that he had dreamt about my Vitamix—I was not desperate for the experiment to end. Instead, I woke up feeing excited about what smoothie I would have for breakfast. Rather than feel deprived during the experiment, I felt strangely satiated; any time I got hungry, I just made myself another drink. (Perhaps because of this, I also did not lose any weight—it turns out that turning solids into liquids does not evaporate their calories.)  

It’s now been more than a month since that woman shouted her Vitamix endorsement to me across the exhibit hall floor; I feel so liberated from conventional food and beverage preparations that if I saw someone carrying a Vitamix box, I’d probably also feel the need to chime in. My diet of green liquids is making me feel not just healthy, but virtuous, as if reducing my food to tiny pieces somehow makes me a morally superior version of myself—and if that sounds ridiculous, I challenge you to take a sip of my ginger-spinach-pineapple concoction and tell me you haven’t been changed. I recognize that I may at some point max out on Vitamix—today’s frozen-kale-on-fresh-kale blend pushed the limit of what a banana can camouflage. But in the meantime, if my house catches fire, I know which appliance I’m grabbing on the way out.

Catherine Price is the author of 101 Places Not to See Before You Die. She writes about diabetes for A Sweet Life.