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CEO Wan Kim continues to run the company and his goal is for Smoothie King to become a part of everyone’s health and fitness journey.

How Smoothie King is reaching a broader audience

Smoothie King wants to be a part of everyone’s health and fitness journey and is creating new products and customizable options as part of that mission.

When Wan Kim was an undergrad at Boston University, he became very familiar with the Smoothie King brand. As he explained during a recent interview, his lifestyle in college “wasn’t very healthy,” but occasional visits to Smoothie King helped him stay balanced.

He continued using the brand in graduate school at the University of California at Irvine and became such a fan, he opened the first international Smoothie King location in South Korea in 2003. Within six years, Kim opened 120 stores in the country and, in 2012, bought the entire concept.

Kim continues to run the company and his goal is for Smoothie King to become a part of everyone’s health and fitness journey. His motivation is part personal, part general.

“I really feel like smoothies can be a tool for a lot of people to lead in their health and fitness journey. I felt it helped me in college when my lifestyle wasn’t very healthy,” he said. “Smoothies became a generic product, a sugar bomb that sometimes isn’t a very healthy product. I thought I could change that. I want people to use this product category as healthier fuel.”

As it turns out, more consumers are demanding healthier smoothies. According to Technavio, the global smoothie market is expected to grow by over 6% annually through 2027 driven by healthier eating habits among younger consumers. Kim has made several changes since 2012 to answer this demand. Among them, a new look and logo, and that mission to be a part of everyone’s journey.

Notably, this mission required a complete product revamp, and Smoothie King removed ingredients like syrups and GMOs from its products and added things like 100% organic veggies.

“We changed literally every single ingredient in our kitchen. Anything you consider bad, we removed them,” Kim said. “Our no-no list for our Clean Blends, I believe, is longer than Panera’s.”

But being a part of consumers’ journeys requires more than just a new product and logo; it also requires convenience and top-of-mind awareness to break through an industry saturated with alternative options. This is the part Smoothie King continues to fine-tune. The company, for instance, is developing technology to make sure guests can customize their orders and it is using a one-to-10 consumer guide as its north star.

“When we think about any product, we look at our audience and then make sure we know what their journey looks like. Your health and fitness journey should look very different from mine, and so we’re making sure we’re coming up with products on a one-to-10 journey chart,” Kim said.

Essentially, a “10” guest is someone who is “super, super, super conscious about their journey,” while a “one” guest may just want to stay on the couch and be comfortable, Kim explains. Many of Smoothie King’s efforts have focused on the six-to-10 crowd, but Kim said the chain is intentionally targeting a broader audience now.

“Sometimes our audience is three-to-five and sometimes it’s six-to-nine. In order for us to change our perception to a healthier product, we focused on the six-to-10 guest because we had to come up with niche market products. Now we are expanding our media budget to fours and fives – regular Joes who are trying but don’t want to feel pressure,” Kim said.

One way Smoothie King has broadened its audience is through the recent launch of Smoothie Bowls. Kim said the brand’s consumer research yielded a demand for such a product and it’s already generating up to 12% of the sales mix. The bowl lineup has also driven more traffic and double-digit same-store sales increases.

“We are seeing new guests and extending our guest profile and we will come out with more of these products in 2024 and 2025,” Kim said.

As Smoothie King sets its sights on a broader audience, it is also aiming for a bigger footprint. According to Datassential, the company finished 2022 with just over 1,100 units, about $644 million in sales (a 7% increase year-over-year) and about $590,000 in average unit volumes. When Kim took over, sales were about $180 million and AUVs were about $360,000. The goal is to grow by about 15% each year from a combination of same-store sales and new store openings.

“I don’t think we can afford more than that and I don’t want to go below that. Longevity matters,” he said.

As it continues to grow, Smoothie King will keep adjusting and adding new products, and it will maintain its mission of becoming a part of everyone’s journey.

“What we are trying to create here is when you have our products, I want you to feel good about your choice and I want you to believe you made the right choice,” Kim said. “That’s what we want to deliver.”

Contact Alicia Kelso at [email protected]

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