If the two juice bars now under construction in Portland open as planned, the city will have at least eight independently owned smoothie shops by the end of this year. Up from a single one a decade ago.

Add in the many local shops offering smoothies as a sideline (such as Jet Video, Greenlight Cafe, Coffee ME Up and Black Cat Coffee), then consider Whole Foods’ prominent juice bar and the fast-food places selling smoothies, and it’s clear Portland residents are drinking more fresh-pressed and blended fruits and vegetables than ever before. “It’s turned into the cool thing to do,” said Alex Vandermark, who owns the Maine Squeeze Juice Cafe.

This national health food trend first showed up in Portland in 2007 when Maine Squeeze Juice Cafe began slinging smoothies in the Old Port. A Public Market House outpost for Maine Squeeze followed in 2012 after the company was snapped up from the original owner by Vandermark, who has a chain of similar shops called The Juicery in New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

Then in 2014, nut milk, juice and smoothie bowl shop Blake Orchard Juicery opened on Exchange Street.

Last year, Flying Fox Juice Bar opened in the East End and Farm Truck Juice opened in the West End. Last month, Portland Pulp opened in the Arts District near Reny’s.

“In our area of town, there was nothing healthy to eat,” said Portland Pulp owner Alanna York. “And in the wintertime, the Public Market House (where Maine Squeeze is located) seems a million miles away. We’re not in a touristy part of town. We’re as busy in the winter as we are in the summer. There are lots of offices here and lots of people walking around, and we’re here to feed them something better than burgers.”

Located in the storefront of the Head Games Salon building, Portland Pulp was created by salon owner York and partner Chris Sawyer, who works in insurance. York said the shop aims to serve the salon clients and the immediate neighborhood, which includes the offices of MaineHealth and Diversified Communications, along with the Portland Museum of Art and the Children’s Museum & Theater of Maine. In addition to smoothies and juices, Portland Pulp sells chopped salads and the occasional lettuce wrap.

Two more juice bars – one in the West End near Park Street and the other on Forest Avenue near the Great Lost Bear – are planned.

Of course, Portlanders are not alone in our love of smoothies. Juice bars overran the West Coast long ago and took New York City by storm in the last few years.

“It is a niche market, but one that is growing,” said Anne Mills, manager of consumer insights at restaurant industry research firm Technomic, based in Chicago. “These concepts appeal strongly to millennials as they meet millennials’ demands for healthy options that can be consumed on the go.”

Mills said “juice bars emerged relatively recently and are growing rapidly” making it tough to predict whether Portland (population 67,000) can sustain this many smoothie sellers.

“Time will tell if the demand is there to support this many,” Mills said.

Vandermark is optimistic.

“My assessment is yeah, there’s definitely room,” he said, provided each location has enough foot traffic. For instance, Roost House of Juice opened in 2012 and then closed a couple years later, possibly a victim of lackluster foot traffic in the spot now occupied by Sur Lie restaurant, Vandermark said. He added that the slow arrival of the national juice bar trend in Maine is due to our winters, when cold weather stifles sales. “In the Northeast, you have to be very careful and have low overhead because of those winters,” he said.

A strawberry rhubarb smoothie, a blueberry spinach almond smoothie and a kale lemon juice are all on this summer’s menu at Flying Fox Juice Bar. Photo by Avery Yale Kamila

Birch Hincks who owns Flying Fox Juice Bar on inner Washington Avenue agrees with Vandermark that winter is tough and regulars are the lifeblood of a smoothie bar. She said her customers skew younger and female, but her regulars also include older people and men, alongside recent immigrants, construction workers – such as a loyal crew from the Portland Water District – and commuters from Falmouth.

“I really like the idea of a neighborhood-style juice bar,” Hincks said. “I think Portland’s big enough to sustain that.”

When she lived in Colorado 10 years ago, Hincks said juice bars were everywhere and she is glad to see Portland cozying up to the trend.

“The restaurants in town are amazing but they’re on the richer end of the food spectrum,” Hincks said. “Portland as a whole city is turning on to the health food wave that has been popping up around the country over the last 10 years.”

On the west side of town, Joe Loeman recently transitioned the Farm Truck Juice cooperative into a nonprofit to allow him to accept donations and provide smoothies and juices to community groups. In addition to charitable work, Farm Truck continues to sell juices, smoothies and coffee to the public. It recently started offering pay-what-you-can coffee, and Loeman said some people pay up to $10 per cup so others can take a free coffee, no questions asked.

Somewhat similarly, Portland Pulp has a glass-front refrigerator called the Karma Cooler, filled with packaged smoothies and salads. People in a hurry can grab lunch, put exact change in a box and leave, without waiting in line.

“I’m always in a hurry,” York said. “I want something where people can throw cash in a box and go. Hopefully the Karma Cooler will keep it honest so we can keep it going.”

Beyond generosity and trust, Portland’s juice bars share other traits, such as ingredient lists, menu items and a fondness for local produce. Most are vegetarian or vegan. Others emphasize organic ingredients. Many also sell coffee. Juiced, which has a spot in Hallowell, applied to the city for a liquor license to sell Prosecco at its planned juice bar on Forest Avenue.

When I asked Mills at Technomic if juice bars might some day reach the saturation level of coffee shops or breweries in Portland, she pointed to the firm’s 2016 beverage report, which shows 62 percent of adults regularly drink coffee while only 17 percent drink smoothies and 10 percent regularly drink fresh-squeezed juices. The report tracked only nonalcoholic beverages.

“While there is a growing market for juice bars, these concepts are more of a niche than coffee shops and breweries,” Mills said. “I don’t see them reaching the prevalence and popularity of Starbucks.”

But Loeman at Farm Truck sees a positive feedback loop every time a new shop opens; the more juice bars there are, he thinks, the more people try smoothies and juices, creating more potential customers. “I’d rather have more juice shops than less,” Loeman said. “I’d rather see a juice shop than a fast food shop.”

Avery Yale Kamila is a food writer who lives in Portland. She can be contacted at:

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Twitter: AveryYaleKamila