RFID Ensures Proper Blending for Smoothies, Spreads and Soups

By Claire Swedberg

A new subscriber- or à la carte-based product called Blix employs HF RFID technology to identify and authenticate each cup of fruit, vegetables or other foods, and blends them according to a recipe setting stored on a tag.


Blix, a maker of smoothie, soup and spread blender systems, is leveraging passive high-frequency (HF) RFID technology to provide its blending appliance with data regarding a product’s recipe so that settings can automatically be set accordingly. The tag not only enables the automatic setting of blender processing cycles, but also ensures that no cup is reused, and that no counterfeit products are placed in the device.

Blix offers an intelligent blending platform. The system comes with pre-portioned, single-serve cups of ingredients to be blended to make a smoothie, soup or spread. The company was launched in November 2017 by father-son team Edouard and Ariel Sterngold, who were already in the food systems industry as the founders of Bevyz, explains Shelly Huang, Blix’s market director. According to Huang, the Sterngolds had discovered that 80 percent of U.S. households own blenders, whereas only one-fifth of those households actually use them. One inhibitor is the hassle of clean-up. So they came up with Blix to spare consumers the fuss of prepping and cleaning.

Customers receive a starter pack that includes a machine and six “Smart Cups.” They can either sign for a subscription or order à la carte cups in multiples of six, to be delivered to their home. Once a customer is ready to use the Blix system, he or she simply adds the liquid of choice to the cup, which already includes quick-frozen ingredients such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains and superfoods like matcha powder, spirulina and goji berries. They can then insert the cup into the blending appliance, which was designed by industrial designer Karim Rashid.

Each recipe requires a blending setting specific to a particular product, says Marcel Weijers, Blix’s business development VP. The system, therefore, needs to uniquely identify the specific cup. This is accomplished via a 13.56 MHz RFID tag, compliant with the ISO 15693 standard, that is attached to the cup. The tag has not only a unique ID number encoded on it, but also the instructions for the blender’s processing cycle specific to the ingredients in the cup.

Blix has also built an HF RFID reader into the blender. The firm uses off-the-shelf tag and reader hardware, but declines to reveal the makes and models. When a tag is interrogated by a reader, firmware on the blender recognizes that tag’s unique ID number and the encoded recipe instructions, and sets the blending time and speed accordingly. The system then automatically begins blending.

The Blix design team opted to write the product-blending settings directly to the tag, Weijers says, rather than saving instructions in software hosted on a cloud-based server. That, he explains, enables the system to work without requiring that the blender be online.

Although people’s homes are becoming more connected with Wi-Fi access, Weijers says, “We still cannot guarantee that each product location has a reliably functioning internet connection. Thus, our system must be able to work independently of an internet connection or cloud solution.”

The company also wanted to be able to identify any counterfeit or non-Blix products and prevent them from being blended by the appliance. If the firmware fails to recognize an RFID tag ID or setting instructions (for example, a non-Blix product would not have a recognizable tag), it will not blend the product.

Blix’s Shelly Huang

“Food and preparation quality are, next to convenience, key elements of our system,” Weijars states. “Therefore, we also protect our cups on reuse and counterfeit by the RFID tag, guaranteeing the highest food and preparation quality.”

While designing the system, Weijers says, the team considered both bar codes and RFID. Although bar-code or optical systems tend to be cheaper, the firm found the functionality to not be as reliable as that of RFID, especially since the freezing of cups could make bar codes difficult to scan. However, he adds, “Optical systems [like bar codes] remain under investigation as a possible lower-cost alternative, while still maintaining all functions currently used with the RFID.”

The Blix system is available for pre-order at a cost of $99.99, the company reports, and the solution will soon launch for $149.99. That order consists of a machine in black or white, as well as six Smart Cups. The company offers weekly subscriptions and à la carte options now for smoothies, with soups and spreads launching in early 2018. The system is currently available to customers on the U.S. East Coast, and is expanding across the country.

In the future, as more homes become connected to the internet, the company may offer Internet of Things- and cloud-based solutions to provide better a user experience, convenience and flexibility as products and recipes evolve. Other future plans, Huang says, will depend on consumer feedback.

“We are a consumer-first company,” Huang states, “which is why we are starting with a direct-to-consumer e-commerce model.” The company intends to gather consumer comments and requests, he says. and to then utilize these insights to create new innovations—whether in terms of the types of flavors customers crave, or new features they desire in the system.