Smoothie franchises shook off the effects of the recession in 2012, with same-store sales growing for several companies. But in a brand-by-brand battle for new customers, who gained the most ground? Possibly Robeks, a 113-store smoothie franchise based in Los Angeles that saw sales steadily rise throughout 2012, with same-store sales up 6 percent for the year and 10 percent for the quarter.
Robeks, a premium smoothie and juice franchise that has been on the forefront of healthy eating trends for nearly 20 years, has given its menu a major overhaul.
The 118-store franchise system rolled out a new menu in January that features 20 new products, including:
• Smoothies made with Greek yogurt, which has twice as much protein and fewer carbohydrates than regular yogurt. Robeks is the first franchise to offer Greek yogurt in smoothies.
Greek yogurt has been filling up and flying off grocery store shelves for the past few years. By some industry estimates, Greek yogurt now accounts for 25 percent of the yogurt sold in the United States.
The reason: Greek yogurt is healthy—even better than regular yogurt, with more protein, less sugar, less sodium, and fewer calories. Americans are quick to recognize a valuable new superfood, and so is Robeks.
Robeks Smoothie first store opened in Phoenix in 2003, and the brand expanded into Tucson and Prescott Valley, Arizona, before the recession hit in 2007. Robeks stopped growing then to focus on helping franchise owners cope.
With the economy growing again, and a series of successful menu additions, Robeks is ready to start growing again.
"I think we can easily double the number of stores that we have," says Kevin Jackson, regional director for Robeks. "We have two stores in Tucson, two in Prescott Valley, and four in Phoenix, and there is huge demand."
The L.A. Times suggests you massage it. TLC advises you to chop and sauté it. Toss it into salads, says The Sacramento Bee. But smoothie franchise Robeks has found that customers go gaga for kale when you blend or juice it into a cold summer drink.
Robeks put its own spin on kale by creating a summer special, the Tropi-KALE Paradise smoothie, that combines the leafy green vegetable with pineapple and papaya to create a smoothie with the sweet, tart taste of a Granny Smith apple, even though nary an apple goes into the blender.
Robeks is bringing its all-natural, no-sugar-added smoothies to more customers by opening locations in interstate travel plazas. This is a new kind of location for the smoothie franchise, which also recently added drive-thru locations in two Western cities and expanded on a California college campus.
A grab-and-go smoothie turns into a sit down meal when it’s served in a bowl — and people love how they feel after a healthy meal.
That’s what Robeks Premium Fruit Smoothies, a national smoothie franchise based in Los Angeles, discovered last year, when one of its franchise owners developed a solution to an issue common to smoothie sellers: how to position smoothies as nutritious meals in addition to on-the-go drinks.
Customers and fans of Robeks whole fruit, premium smoothies are flocking to the company's Facebook page this month to capture the wing-flapping energy of the brand's legendary brand symbol – its cheerful hummingbird – in a naming contest that continues through the end of July.
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Reporting by Blair Chancey, Sam Oches, Daniel P. Smith, Robin Van Tan, Barney Wolf & Lori Zanteson
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