April 28, 2007

Obesity goes shaking along

USA Today.com reports today milkshakes are going chic.

It's working: Sales of milkshakes, malts and floats rose 11% in 2006, says NPD Group, an industry research specialist. They're picking up steam at odd hours, too: Nearly 1-in-10 of the dairy drinks is sold at breakfast and 3-in-10 are sold as late-night snacks. The drivers: nostalgia for the customer and profits for the restaurant.

For restaurants, milkshakes are easy money. "They're enormously profitable," Muller says. The average price of a restaurant shake in 2006 was about $3.38, reports Technomic, a market research firm.

About 75% of that is profit, Muller says.

•Twinkie shakes. For $5 to $7, 5-month-old BLT Burger in New York serves a Twinkie Boy shake — made with a Hostess Twinkie, vanilla ice cream and caramel syrup. "We sell a lot of those," says Tim Murphy, manager.

•Hand-scooped. Since launching hand-scooped shakes nearly two years ago, shake sales at Hardee's and Carl's Jr. have tripled — even though the price jumped nearly a buck to $2.99, says Brad Haley, marketing chief. Coming to the chains in May: Orange Cream (Creamsicle-like) shakes.

•Bottled shakes. Ben & Jerry's has taken three of its most popular ice cream flavors — Cherry Garcia, Chunky Monkey and Chocolate Fudge Brownie — and put them into $1.99 bottled shakes that are sold mostly through convenience stores.

But most shakes, particularly candy-filled shakes, are full of calories and fat, warns Amy Lanou, nutrition professor at the University of North Carolina.

A large Health Bar shake weighs in at 2,160 calories, she says. "That's the total calories many adults need for a day."

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