When I, a devoted fan of the Freshens cafe in the Rec Center at the University of Connecticut, left campus due to COVID-19 in the spring of 2020, I assumed it would still be there when I returned – let’s be honest though, I also thought I’d be returning in two weeks, so we can’t get everything right, I guess. Alas, I was wrong, and I found that Freshens had been replaced by Mango, a university-owned cafe that seems to offer basically the same things as its predecessor. Since returning this fall, I’ve been to Mango a few times, and to be completely honest, I remember enjoying Freshens more. Naturally, instead of just keeping this to myself and drinking my smoothie in peace, I had to find out what others thought.
I’d like to state that I am not claiming that the survey I conducted was very scientific in its nature. For starters, the only people who may have possibly responded were people who follow me on Instagram, as the initial poll took place on my Instagram Story. The one scientific thing I did do for this was to limit the factors tested; as I am solely a smoothie drinker when it comes to the Rec’s cafes, I chose to only ask about smoothies. Any data relating to other products sold at either Freshens or Mango was not included in my findings. So, when I asked on my Instagram Story if anyone had had a smoothie from the Rec Center before, I was pleased to find that about 60 people responded yes. Unfortunately, this number needed to be whittled down to 16, which represents the people who have had both a Freshens smoothie and a Mango one.
Of the 16 people who I talked to that have tried Freshens and Mango smoothies, five of them considered the two offerings to be about the same, four of them preferred Mango and seven of them preferred Freshens. Firstly, I thought it was very interesting that more than twice as many people had a strong opinion about one or the other compared to those who stayed neutral. Secondly, I was surprised by how many different reasons people gave for liking their preferred option.
Among the reasons given were the smoothies’ consistency, sweetness, portion size, complexity of content and general taste. These were applied by members of both groups, so I think they are purely about preference. It really begs the question of whether or not there is a perfect smoothie at all. Some people drink smoothies as a post-workout ritual, while some are just looking for a midday snack to help cool them down on a hot day. No matter what, purely based on all these factors, there really is no concrete winner, as no one smoothie is going to please everybody.
However – and this where my opinion writer hat falls back onto my head – one factor was brought up multiple times, specifically from fans of Freshens over Mango: the price. Mango smoothies are more expensive than the ones from Freshens, and the only possible cause can be traced to who owns the space. Freshens is a nationwide chain, with over 200 locations on college campuses, while Mango is just another UConn property under the umbrella of UConn Dining Services.
At the end of the day, this argument really is irrelevant, as Freshens is not coming back and Mango is here to stay. It is a good sign that some people do not see a difference, and some people consider the new to be better than the old. Yet, it seems as if the real test for Mango will be if patrons are willing to pay more for smoothies, as what’s being offered doesn’t really seem to have any significant upgrade that would warrant jacking up the price.
Lastly, I’d like to thank all 120 people who either participated in the initial poll or answered additional follow up questions!