I was convinced I’d start eating more vegetables when I stopped eating meat. I thought it’d be all kale, all day, every day. Instead it’s a lot of beige. When you’re a super busy vegetarian (and occasional sushi pescatarian), your diet can easily fall into the pre-packaged and processed trap. There’s always a new meat substitute, a new hearty carb, a new way to eat repackaged cauliflower. And, of course, there’s always pasta.
I was getting desperate to incorporate more greens into my diet when I discovered the all-natural smoothie company, Kencko. The company’s pitch is is simple: If you’re part of the 90% of adults who fail to consume the recommended servings of produce per day, Kencko offers an easy way to boost those number.The company flash freezes organic fruit and vegetables before they are pulverized and packed as individual serving sachets—with zero sugar, zero additives. According to Kencko, each smoothie, when blended with 10 to 12 ounces of water, juice, or milk, offers the minimum equivalent of two and a half cups of produce. Kencko’s freeze-dried blends don’t take up room in your freezer and have a shelf life of up to six months.
Founders Tomás Froes and Ricardo Vice Santos formed the company in 2016, entered a 2018 TechStars London class, and raised $3.4 million to get Kencko off the ground the following year. The concept for Kencko, which is Japanese for health, came to the founders after Froes was diagnosed with acute gastritis and changed his diet dramatically to incorporate more fruits and vegetables.
Kencko is designed for people who want to round out their daily servings, but don’t want to have to think too hard about it. The smoothies are cataloged by color and purpose like a Pantone fever dream. The Jades smoothie, which promises to deliver mental focus, features lime, banana, zucchini, dates, chia, matcha, kombucha, and spirulina. Rubies, for balance, includes raspberries, sweet potato, maca, apple, goji berries, orange, dates, pumpkin, and red pepper.
My personal favorite was the strawberry-heavy Reds, a skin health smoothie with four grams of fiber and 25 milligrams of vitamin C. It’s delicious with apple juice. Yellows—a simple tropical carrot blend—tastes just as satisfying as any fresh fruit smoothie when shaken up with nut milk. (Kencko recommends blending it with coconut milk for a “squeaky-clean piña colada” taste.)
The biggest, recurring gripe I saw during my deep dive of Kencko influencer reviews is that the smoothie blends never quite “dissolve” into a smooth liquid. This is true, but I can’t imagine that pulverized fruit (and its seeds) is meant to fully disintegrate. The key is to listen to the directions and add the powder after your liquid or you’ll end up with a clumpy mess. I mostly shook mine in the included mixer bottle, which features a grate-like center that aids in the mixing process, and it performed just as well as my trusty Nutribullet Go and the Golde Superwhisk. I tried each blend with a variety of nut milks, fruit juices, and water.
One of Kencko’s main selling points it its price. Though my brain had to do mental gymnastics to determine the base price of each sachet (Kencko’s pricing strategy has varied over the years), right now they come out at $2.99 per smoothie for a box of 20. You can bring down the per-serving price to as low as $1.66 by ordering boxes of 30 and even 60 smoothies on monthly plans. If you choose to stockpile, Kencko sachets have a three- to six-month shelf life. Like many direct-to-consumer startups, Kencko requires you to sign up for a subscription to make your first purchase, but you can cancel after the first box.
Most of the other direct-to-consumer smoothies that I checked out came in at around $5 a drink. Daily Harvest, for example, says its frozen smoothies start at $5.99. Freeze-dried mixes from NutriBullet are about $5 apiece and Sow Good‘s go for $6.99 each. Meanwhile, my neighborhood fresh-pressed juice spot typically ranges between $7 to $12 for a complex smoothie. That’s a difficult price to stomach every day.
While you have to make a little more of a commitment to Kencko, it appears to be the most cost effective of the bunch. I also like that I can throw a few packets into my bag and have access to a smoothie whenever I want, which is handy as office life resumes. They’re filling, delicious, and keep me from grazing on less healthy snacks. I’ll trade the rainbow for beige any day.
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