C-Suite Agenda

Transforming a Smoothie Shop into a Lifestyle Brand

Wan Kim, CEO of Smoothie King Franchises Inc.

After spending nearly a decade building the Smoothie King brand presence in South Korea as a master franchisee, I joined the Smoothie King team in 2012 as CEO. My team knew that a long-term project for the company domestically and internationally was to transform public perception of the brand into a brand that is an integral part of our guests’ health and fitness journey and they were ready for the mission.

In the ensuing years, we invested time and effort as a brand to better understand our guests and to ensure that we can be a part of their journey. Our research showed that a lot of people associate smoothies as a warm weather drink, so they’re not going to be a top choice as a snack option in the colder months. Another major observation we made was that people didn’t necessarily associate smoothies as a healthy drink option or a meal which was a big hurdle for us to be part of their routine. This feedback coupled with the misconception of smoothies being a seasonal beverage gave us the idea that Smoothie King needed to reframe the conversation around who we are, the purpose of our products, and how we differentiate ourselves from other quick-service and smoothie brands.

The reality was that on the surface, the smoothie as a treat market provided limited room for growth. We had to think differently. Creating smoothies that help people reach their health and fitness goals has always been Smoothie King’s DNA, so our solution was to become hyper-focused on one element: to inspire people to live a healthy and active lifestyle.

Wan Kim, CEO of Smoothie King Franchises Inc.

What Do We Mean by “Healthy and Active Lifestyle?”

The idea of connecting with guests who live a healthy and active lifestyle was the vision set from day one. However, the team was always conscious of the fact that the concept of healthy and active lifestyle varies from person to person. Some people enjoy participating in competitive athletics and working out on a regular basis while others are intentionally including nutritious fruits and vegetables in their diet.

People want to live a healthy and active lifestyle if they have the opportunity, and we want to make sure that Smoothie King is synonymous with convenient, high-quality nourishment. We’re passionate about our mission, to be an integral part of every health and fitness journey, and we knew that it would be a perfect way for Smoothie King to stand out in a competitive food industry – winter months included.

Exponential Growth with the Re-Branding

More important than what we do, we want to make it clear to our guests why we’re doing it. Our mission motivated our team to go out and establish a purposeful lifestyle brand. Every decision that we make at Smoothie King is on behalf of our mission. As predicted, this new line of thinking and marketing we’ve had over nearly the last 10 years has been a huge success that overcame seasonal roadblocks, both in terms of sales and store openings. The total store count has more than doubled in size and we have seen roughly a 4% compounded annual growth rate in same store sales since 2012, while continuing to grow each month.

In 2019, we incorporated Rule The Day™ to further convey to our guests why and how we intend to play an integral role in their healthy and active lifestyles. Our goal with Rule The Day™ is to get back to the Smoothie King roots of centering every menu item around delicious and healthy options that fit guest’s purposes and represents their character, ranging anywhere from pre or post-workout fuel to enjoying a healthy treat. Our purpose-driven menu has been the backbone to the success we’ve seen and that our team members have spearheaded. The growth we have seen is a direct result of the team’s dedication to our mission.

Wan Kim, CEO of Smoothie King Franchises Inc.

Pandemic Innovations

We had to get creative when the pandemic first began, and part of that was being very aware of how we could still be a part of their health and fitness journey. One of the advantages we had was our foundational wellness messaging which we have been communicating for years. We then focused in on how our product was convenient, that we were open, and that our locations were following safety measures during the pandemic. Our franchisees and key members of the team deserve a ton of credit for the innovative measures they took by adding online ordering, curbside delivery and launching a delivery system at their stores that ensured our guests didn’t miss a beat with having the menu options they’ve grown to love still available under safe conditions. As a result of the team’s innovations, we had a record-breaking third quarter for store openings and ended 2020 positive in same-store sales. More recently, we announced an 18% same-store sales growth for the opening quarter of 2021.

Continued Health and Wellness Focus for the Future

We are happy with what our messaging has done for our guests, but we’re not going to stop. As people start to get back to their pre-pandemic health-centric habits, our goal is to continue to win over healthy-option seeking guests. This can range from people looking to incorporate healthy snacks into their active lifestyle, or just folks looking to clean up their diet in general. We’re confident that our brand identity will pave the way for future success, all while proving that smoothies can be nutritious and delicious all year long.


Written by Wan Kim.

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Wan Kim
Wan Kim, CEO of Smoothie King Franchises Inc. Wan Kim discovered Smoothie King while in undergrad. He loved the concept and opened the first international Smoothie King location in South Korea in 2003 after earning his MBA. Within six years, Kim opened 120 stores in South Korea and grew brand awareness to 94 percent on the peninsula.


Wan Kim is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. You can follow him on LinkedIn.