Business blends events with fruit… with bikes

Bike n' Blend encourages public to pedal power their produce


Horticulture
RIDE ON: Bike n' Blend founder, Leena van Raay, aboard one of her blender bikes which are helping to create engagement between customers and fresh produce. Photo: Vinnie Lum

RIDE ON: Bike n' Blend founder, Leena van Raay, aboard one of her blender bikes which are helping to create engagement between customers and fresh produce. Photo: Vinnie Lum

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A company offering pedal-power smoothies is helping connect the public to fresh produce.

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IT'S a surprising equation that's working: bike + blender = engagement with fruits and vegetables.

The concept is what's driving Bike n' Blend founder and director, Leena van Raay.

The core of the pop-up events company are several stationary bikes that are mounted with blenders.

Participants are able to select their ingredients, blend them together via some pedal power, then reward themselves for their efforts with the blended contents.

Bike n' Blend has been making appearances at product launches, openings, activations, school fetes, conferences and expos.

It now has offices (and bikes) in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide and Brisbane.

It has been a six-year journey for Leena, who comes from a medical science background, with plenty of learning curves.

A personal transport preference also helped shape the business.

"I've always ridden everywhere. I'd rather cycle than drive," she said.

Her time working in hospitals and within the health sector highlighted to her the need for better nutrition and eating habits among Australians.

Leena says she went from treatment to prevention.

A friend led her to Future Spark, the company which actually creates the bike-powered blender machines.

The bikes are built by hand, something Leena herself has become quite adept at.

"We're continuously building bikes all year," she said.

"It's not uncommon for me to be up at 10pm with a spanner in my hand." 

Part of the learning phase included getting to know more about what's grown where and when.

"I started going to farmers markets and got to know fruit and vegetable wholesalers," she said. 

The bikes are about far more than just a novel way of making a smoothie.

Leena says they are an engagement tool that draw the public.

She said participants trust the concept because it they can literally see all the moving parts of what's involved.

That engagement crosses all ages and provides for immediate feedback.

"Parents say, that's the first time I've seen my kids eat such-and-such a vegetable," Leena said.

"It's just amazing."

Though every event is different, the business typically caters for 100 - 200 people in two-three hours with two staff and two to three blender bikes.

At busy school fetes, this can jump up to about 300 smoothies in five hours.

PEDAL POWER: One of the nippers at this year's Mango Mess-tival at Bondi Beach last December gets pedalling.

PEDAL POWER: One of the nippers at this year's Mango Mess-tival at Bondi Beach last December gets pedalling.

The largest number of smoothies made at an event was 1000 at the University of Technology, Sydney.

For those wondering, it only takes 30 seconds to pedal a drink but there are generally no time restrictions placed on riders.

Customers are encouraged to come up with their own drink combinations to help with the engagement.

Some events charge for the smoothies while others decide to give them away for free.

Apart from the healthy eating angle, there is also the sustainability notion that the bikes are people-powered, providing a ready-to-consume product on the spot.

That sustainability focus flows through to using washable and biodegradable cups, not using straws or lids, and donating to UNICEF and local organisations.

The business has attracted the attention of some big companies as well.

"The first eight bikes had a different blender - vintage style glass jug - which Breville stopped making after 15 years, so I researched many brands and pitched to Breville for sponsorship and they said yes," Leena said.

"It's not uncommon for me to be up at 10pm with a spanner in my hand." - Leena van Raay

"I changed the jug plate system and jug to what we have now and continued to get their support- ask and you shall receive.

"Well, there may have been a bit of perseverance from my end."

Bike n' Blend can supply the ingredients for a particular event or it just provide the bikes.

In the days of social media, a picture or "selfie" on a bike with a freshly blended concoction makes an ideal moment to share, creating further connections.

The business can provide a free fundraising and engagement guide, recipes and a shopping list to help an organisation make the most of the opportunity.

Bike n' Blend has done events for Medibank and for cosmetics company, Lorreal, for the launch of a new pomegranate range.

DRINK UP: Two customers are given some advice while blending up their own smoothies in Melbourne.

DRINK UP: Two customers are given some advice while blending up their own smoothies in Melbourne.

The bikes were also used at the mango industry's major public awareness push, the Mango Mess-tival at Bondi Beach last December.

Leena said she would love to work with more growers to help promote higher consumption of fresh produce.

While she's happy to stick in the engagement space at this point, Leena said there is so much potential for other bike-powered projects.

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