The reason I was flown up to the Bay Area by Jamba Juice was because they were introducing several food items that they wanted to promote via bloggers. So they didn't fly just me in. There were about a dozen of us, although most of them were local. They sent a car to pick me up from cousin Q's older brother's condo along with another blogger who lived nearby.
The California flatbreads that they were rolling out. Holding the sign was none other than Rand, the fabulous brother of Kalyn's Kitchen whom she mentions quite often and who designs the mastheads on her blog. So it was fun to finally place a face to the name.
After everyone arrived, we were introduced to some Jamba Juice executives, given the story of how it all began (in 1990 as a juice bar in San Luis Obispo, Calif. and has now grown to 700+ locations in 30 states and the Bahamas), and watched a promotional clip of a guy in banana costume. The current campaign featured "cubicle picnics" of Jamba Juice's new menu items with posts of breezy beach scenes you could pin to your office wall for your faux picnic. That was all nice, but you, and I, really just want to see the test kitchen, don't we?
Jamba Juice's headquarters is in Emeryville, Calif., between Berkeley and Oakland, and directly across from the Emery Bay Club & Apartments, where my brother, cousins, and childhood friend all lived once upon a time. If those apartments weren't so bad, imagine how convenient it would be to literally walk across the street to go to work.
And look at the view Jamba Juice employees get to see every day. From the upstairs, you would be able to overlook San Francisco Bay, although the view from the parking lot wasn't too shabby.
Jamba Juice employees also get to make free smoothies. Oh man, I think I'd make a Mango-a-go-go every morning if I worked here. Umm, do I need to put in the disclaimer that I was already a fan of Jamba Juice? So any bias in their favor was already there. :P
An orange juicer. An employee was making her free smoothie for breakfast as we walked by. Jealous!
Oh! And I love me some freshly squeezed carrot juice too!
Finally, we're in the test kitchen. We were also introduced to the research and development team, who came up with the ideas and prepared the food for us.
Jamba Juice told us that 66% of their customers want something to eat to go along with their drink. They quietly tested the food products in six stores to see what the response was before planning the roll-out to all the locations.
We were each treated to freshly made steel-cut oatmeal, slowly cooked in soymilk. Mine was Blueberry & Blackberry Oatmeal, of course. I had to scrape off a lot of the sugar. Actually, this would've been enough as a meal for me. It was so warm and soothing. I had to stop after several bites so I could make room for what was to come.
The oatmeal launched in January 2009, so it was a new-ish item in case we didn't know about it. I didn't. Because, despite my love of Jamba Juice's smoothies, it's a bit too expensive for me to indulge in very often.
One of the foods that were debuting that day was this Greens and Grain Wrap with a spinach tortilla filled with red quinoa, shredded carrots and jicama and other vegetables, and a mango dipping sauce. The dipping sauces were needed to add flavor to some of the wraps as there was no mayonnaise or high calorie fillers. The wraps were all priced around $5.50 and about 500 to 600 calories, although you'll have to check the packaging for the exact nutritional breakdown of each one.
The first thing I noticed was the color. The wrapper and fillings all popped out at me so I already thought the wrap looked appealing before biting into it. The jicama added a nice sweet crunch and the red quinoa was quite hearty. I asked the research and development team if the addition of quinoa was to capture some of the popularity of this super grain. And indeed, they were specifically told to come up with a vegan wrap featuring red quinoa.
Since the wraps were intended as a quick lunch for those on the go, Jamba Juice also debuted iced teas with real fruit juice to go with them. I'm assuming for those who can't eat a wrap and a smoothie, since a smoothie often serves as a whole meal for me.
I think this was the Prickly Pear Tea Infusion, although it might have been the Pomegranate Tea Infusion. I also tasted the Passion Fruit Tea Infusion as well. All of them were delicious. The real fruit juice flavor really came through. I mentioned the real fruit iced tea later to lil' sis and she went to try them right away and loved them too.
We were then interrupted by CEO James White, who was being photographed for an article in BusinessWeek.
The photographer took a picture of all the bloggers, taking a picture of him.
Except for me. I stood on the side taking a picture of the people taking pictures. :P
The Chimichurri Chicken Wrap was one of my favorites, largely because of the Chimichurri (Argentinian Green Sauce), which provided a lot of flavor.
The Greek Goodness Wrap had chopped olives and feta cheese in a beet tortilla with a Greek vinaigrette. I liked this one quite a lot too since the feta and olives saved it from being boring. I actually would have liked the feta and olives in the quinoa vegan wrap.
But alas, for quality control purposes, all the wraps come prepackaged so there's no mixing and matching. The dipping sauces are concealed behind the label in the middle of the package. The food is prepared at several main facilities and then shipped to various Jamba Juice locations. So in the case of the flatbreads, which I'll get to later in this post, not all stores can offer them if they don't have space for the little turbo ovens to heat them.
What it looks like when you're feeding a dozen bloggers.
The Asian Style Chicken Wrap was actually pretty boring after eating all the others. I mean, it was fine but missed the punch of feta or the heartiness of quinoa or the flavor of chimichurri. This was a good basic wrap for the unadventurous. It also had the least amount of calories, only 430.
The Gobble'licious was a basic turkey sandwich with field greens, provolone cheese, and red bell pepper. Nothing special for me, but probably a big seller with people who want a basic sandwich.
The Caesar salad was pretty bland since they didn't use anchovies. I noticed this isn't listed on their website so it either didn't make the cut, or got dropped? Although, there's now a Chicken Caesar Wrap, which sounds like a better way to go with it anyway.
The Couscous and Produce salad with Israeli couscous was a delight in colors and textures.
We asked to see what they would look like in the box. Unfortunately, I don't see this salad on their website either. What a shame because this was easily one of my favorites. Probably too adventurous for people?
The research and development team preparing our flatbreads.
Another shot of the crowd just so you can see what it's like at these kind of events.
The 5-inch California Flatbreads feature a flaxseed crust (Healthy!), are around 300 to 400 calories, and sell for $3.75.
The MediterraneaYUM featured lots of veggies and tasted like a veggie pizza.
The Four Cheesy flatbread featured mozzarella, provolone, parmesan, and romano cheeses. Pretty good if you like cheese pizzas.
I was splitting the flatbreads with another blogger, eating only about a bite or two, since were so full at this point. Then we just asked the R&D team to give us quarter pieces so food wouldn't be wasted.
The TomoArtichoko had chopped artichoke hearts and lots of panko bread crumbs. This was my least favorite since it was so bland and dry. The bread crumbs were to provide texture but I'm not sure bread crumbs on a pizza works for me. Not surprisingly, this flatbread is no longer listed on their menu online.
We asked to see how the flatbreads would be served, and as you can see, they come in a box like a regular pizza. The Smokehouse Chicken flatbread was my favorite of the four. Barbecued chicken, corn, black beans, roasted bell peppers, and cheese. Just like a regular pizza, but only 390 calories.
Jamba Juice also made smoothies for us to take home.
On the way out, we passed by the sensory deprivation room. The red lights disguises the real food, so you can't rely on appearance to gauge whether something tastes good. Food is passed through the window on the bottom right corner.
There was a mad rush of bloggers grabbing free sandwiches and salads at the end, but I managed to get a Chimichurri Chicken Wrap. We also got to keep the lab coats we wore in the test kitchen, which I use in my kitchen when frying or cooking other foods that tend to splatter. The tote bag I use for groceries, the cap went to my dad, the metal water bottle my brother wanted along with my wrap since he was curious about Jamba Juice food, and the $20 gift card lil' sis and I promptly used for smoothies and fruit tea.
All Northern California posts can be found with the tag, Series: NorCal, but I suggest reading this particular trip in this order:
San Francisco - Oakland Bay Bridge
La Boulange Cafe & Bakery - San Francisco (Marina/Cow Hollow)
The Wok Shop - San Francisco (Chinatown)
Burma Superstar Restaurant - San Francisco (Inner Richmond)
Ti Couz - San Francisco (Mission)
Behind the Scenes: Jamba Juice Headquarters - Emeryville
Thanks again to Neighbor Agency, which handles PR for Jamba Juice, for sponsoring my trip to San Francisco. They paid for my plane fare, and pick up and drop off from Jamba Juice headquarters. All other excursions were mine and paid for by me.
Jamba Juice Company
6475 Christie Ave., Suite 150
Emeryville, CA 94608
510-596-0100 or 866-4-R-FRUIT
1 year ago today, a quickie Hong Kong cafe-style afternoon tea of ham and egg sandwich and milk tea.
2 years ago today, Fogo de Chao - Beverly Hills.