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The Cult of Vitamix

Learn how one American company persuaded millions of people to buy a really expensive blender
The Cult of Vitamix
Photograph by David Brandon Geeting for Bloomberg Businessweek

The Vitamix 5200 high-performance blender is squat, black, and rubberized, loud as a leaf blower and powerful enough to pulverize a steer. Its 2-horsepower engine approaches the strength of a lawn mower. At 11 pounds, it’s as heavy as a cannonball. The weight and a sheath of thick thermoset plastic damp vibrations and keep the blender from flying off the counter. A Vitamix blender is a symphony of precision engineering, with motor, container, and blades working in powerful harmony. The container is curved at the bottom to create a vortex that pulls food through the blades, which are surprisingly dull. That’s because a Vitamix doesn’t chop or slice, as we imagine blenders do. Instead, the angled blades, which travel at speeds up to 240 miles per hour, simply obliterate whatever is inside. The process creates enough friction to boil soup. “They are essentially bashing the materials to death,” says Greg Moores, the company’s vice president for engineering, “breaking down the cell walls to emulsify them at a molecular level. Theoretically, this is healthier for you because it emulsifies plant matter more than your teeth can by chewing it.” The 5200, which retails for $449, is actually one of the cheaper models. All told, Vitamix expects to sell 1.4 million blenders this year.

David Brandon Geeting for Bloomberg Businessweek
You may already have encountered a Vitamix. Headsetted pitchmen hawk them at Costco Wholesale. Contestants on Iron Chef whip up soups and sauces with them. When Ryan Seacrest visited Today in September, he brought one along as a gift for the cast and had them try his signature smoothie recipe, Brazilian Thunder. (It’s delicious.) Vitamixes are colonizing the kitchens of upscale professionals everywhere and taking on totemic status. “They’ve become an icon for healthy eating,” says Linda Petursdottir, a nutritionist and wellness coach in Bethesda, Md., who teaches a Vitamix cooking class. “A Vitamix is the fad symbol of your commitment to nutrition and healthy living.” Luxury blenders have gone viral in the way that Tupperware once did—through word of mouth, mainly among harried moms and working women, although men are buying them, too. Petursdottir will typically teach her class in the home of a client who has invited her friends, who in turn tell their friends, and the circle widens. This is a reliable pattern because something about owning a Vitamix breeds an impulse to evangelize about it.