New Orleans is known worldwide for many things - parties, parades and rich history come to mind - but healthy food options is not one of them.
“New Orleans is the land of fried foods, Mardi Gras, and cold beer,” Stephen Foley, Smoothie King franchise development manager, said with a laugh.
So how is it that a brand dedicated to health and nutrition was able to thrive in a city where po-boys and pastries are more common than fruits and veggies? After all, if a juice and smoothie business can make it there, it can make it anywhere.
Of course, it all came down to the product itself. Not only are Smoothie King products healthy, they taste great - an essential ingredient in a city known for its love of flavor.
“Smoothie King has more stores in New Orleans than many other brands, but we continue to thrive down there as a healthy alternative, even with all the various food options,” Foley said.
To hear Foley tell it, Smoothie King started as the city’s best kept secret, one that still remains for people who aren’t familiar with the brand’s roots in N’awlins.
“There’s still a large segment of the population that doesn’t know Smoothie King started here,” he said. “It was like it was the best kept secret of New Orleans. Now that we have our name on the Smoothie King Center [indoor arena and home of the New Orleans Pelicans], people on the east and west coast are asking, ‘What the hell is Smoothie King?’”
The story started with Steve Kuhnau, who created the first Smoothie Bar in 1973. Each customer thought it was their own special secret – right up until they saw their neighbors ordering up beside them.
Now, the tiny New Orleans-based business has spread not only across the U.S., but as far as Korea and the Cayman Islands. Meanwhile, Smoothie King’s success has also bred its fair share of imitators.
“You know you’re doing something good when all the other brands have their quote unquote ‘smoothie,’” Foley continued. “We think it’s great, because if you have one of theirs and then have a Smoothie King smoothie, it’s night and day.”
And now that the brand has conquered The Big Easy and much of the American southeast, it’s set its sights on the main prize.
“The vision is for the Smoothie King brand to be as recognizable as Apple or Nike,” Foley said.
In short, just like how the Starbucks logo makes people think of coffee, the Smoothie King logo will remind people of the healthy alternative to fast food.
If the brand’s success thus far is any indication, this is one dream that’s sure to become a reality.