Smoothie King CEO: “Smoothies with a Purpose” Can Change the World
It is no secret that many food choices these days continue to prioritize flavor over fitness. For one, the dominating food franchises in the United States serve up the traditional burger-and-fries tandem. Beverages and smoothies are mostly concoctions of sweeteners, flavoring and coloring ingredients that are undeniably as thirst-quenching as they are visually pleasing.
Smoothie King, a nearly four-decade smoothie company, continues its quest to create a change in the beverage industry to positively impact customers’ choices and lifestyles. The New Orleans-based company was founded by Steve Kuhnau in 1973. Thirty-nine years later, Wan Kim, a US-educated South Korean businessman who had always enjoyed the healthy and delicious Smoothie King, bought the company after starting out as a franchisee. Under his leadership, 650 locations of the “first Smoothie Bar” had since been established all over the United States, Singapore and Korea among other international locations. Wan is targeting expansion all over the globe, enticing customers to shift to healthier beverage alternatives.
As detailed in its official website, Smoothie King envisions “making healthier, more active lifestyle delicious and nutritious.” Today, the franchiser offers a variety of smoothies with emphasis not only on good taste, but also on good health. The menu covers smoothie fruit, veggie, nut, protein and Greek yogurt blends for fitness, wellness, slimming and energy boost. Individuals with particular diets and food intake requirements choose from the dairy-free, gluten-free and vegan smoothie choices.
Global CEO Wan said he always enjoyed Smoothie King and believed in its purpose to provide customers with a healthier smoothie choice without compromising taste. Smoothie King continues to launch more product varieties, enabling it to raise sales by about 20% and trim down costs by 3% over the last two years. As a result, franchisees are happier and customers are more satisfied.
Talking to QSR Magazine, Wan reminisced the good old days before acquiring Smoothie King, and how his vision for the company to “change the world” is catapulting it to success:
I remember being in college and always looking at a late-night smoothie as a “sin-free” food. Like so many others, my friends and I weren’t eating regular healthy meals on a daily basis, but none of us felt bad after a smoothie. After college and developing more than 120 stores for the brand, I bought Smoothie King two years ago and couldn’t be happier.
I really believe that we can change the world. A lot of people might scoff at that, but it is truly what motivates me every day. If our brand was the size of McDonald’s, I believe that the world, health- and nutrition-wise, would be a better place. This is our true mission and vision for the brand, and we’re continually striving to reach that goal.
For me, my vision is my motivation. I hope that my team would remember my always driving in the direction of that vision, that I led them to reach that goal. I always want to move forward. The foodservice business is a tough one. What I’ve found is that everybody is capable of making a comment, and the ones who are heard the most aren’t the experts. There are a lot of opinions out there, and it’s hard to stay on course. This isn’t an easy business when it comes to staying focused on the future, because you constantly have to listen.
Photo by Choo Yut Shing