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Jamba Juice’s menu items, from its juices and smoothies to its oatmeal and wraps, are something of a healthy trifecta: They’re low in calories and fat, high in nutrients like Vitamins A and C, and contain fresh ingredients like fruits and vegetables.
But in the last few years, the 23-year-old Emeryville, California–based brand has worked on adding a new dimension to its position as a healthy quick serve. The company has invested more heavily in brand partnerships and marketing promotions that communicate and encourage a healthy, active lifestyle among existing and potential customers.
“For us, this is a two-part story: It’s about what you [eat] and us playing at least a small role in helping consumers think about healthier lifestyle activities, whether it’s biking or running or getting up and moving around,” says James White, Jamba Juice president, chairman, and CEO.
The ways in which Jamba Juice has associated itself with a healthy lifestyle message defy a dilemma that many quick-service concepts have stumbled upon in their efforts to help reverse climbing obesity rates. For years, healthy has been synonymous with tasteless, even as health and wellness have become trendy across the U.S. This has led many brands to avoid mass marketing of health-based initiatives for fear they will repel potential consumers.
Now, however, more brands are trying to embody healthiness in their branding and promotions, as part of a broader social ethos they hope will set them apart from the quick-service pack.
For its part, Jamba Juice is attempting to modernize the idea of healthy so that it doesn’t just suggest nutritious menu offerings.
“If you take the purist approach, many people would say health equals science. So you think of a lab coat, and it’s going to be healthy because there’s a medicinal orientation to it,” says Julie Washington, chief brand officer for Jamba Juice. “What we’re saying is the broader landscape that consumers are now engaging in is health and wellness, which is a more holistic place for us all to engage in. So that could look like many different categories and products, and not just one thing.”
Jamba Juice’s healthy messaging initiatives have indeed been many and different. The company’s Jamba CARES social responsibility platform has focused on promoting health in schools and communities through a number of programs and events. White says a February 2010 event that set a Guinness World Record for the most simultaneous jump-ropers (85,000 jumpers in 500 locations across California) was “at the start of this idea for us to try to do something bigger that would have a much greater impact.”
The company had one of the biggest stages in the world when it partnered with the White House and National Geographic Kids magazine on a 2011 event in which the record for most people doing jumping jacks in a 24-hour period was set (about 300,000 across the globe). But it was the July 2011 launch of Jamba Juice’s “Team Up for a Healthy America” initiative that brought to head many of the brand’s healthy lifestyle programs.
Through “Team Up for a Healthy America,” people are invited to sign up on a specially designated website (myhealthpledge.com) and participate in weekly health pledges like “Take a 15-minute walk once a day” or “Eat a healthy breakfast.” For every pledge, Jamba Juice donates $1 toward the purchase of athletic equipment for schools across the U.S.
“We know, in order to truly have the most robust health and wellness plan, it requires activity,” Washington says. “That’s usually at the root cause of obesity, is that people are not moving. They’ve become very sedentary. So that’s what ‘Team Up’ does. … It’s our way to getting everyone moving with something that’s very simple, and you can get other people engaged, you can get your family engaged.”
Jamba Juice has partnered with a number of sports representatives on “Team Up for a Healthy America,” including the WNBA, tennis star Venus Williams, the NBA’s Golden State Warriors, and USA Water Polo. Williams, who is also a D.C.-based Jamba Juice franchisee, is the spokeswoman.
“From an activation perspective, all the things that we do, whether it’s with folks from the WNBA or Venus Williams, are in things that make perfect sense for them and it always relates to either young people or healthy activity or lessons that they’ve learned on good nutrition and physical fitness,” White says.
Jamba Juice’s efforts have extended beyond encouraging physical activity. In 2009, the company launched efforts to fund gardening education programs across the U.S. with the “It’s All About the Fruit and Veggies” Grant Award Program. In 2012, the company awarded 20 grants in conjunction with the National Gardening Association to youth gardening programs.
“For us it’s about healthy community, so it really emanates from an individual store that sits and lives in an individual community,” White says. “The way we think about it is anything that we can do that helps people be more active, that helps people be more exposed to more fresh fruits and vegetables, that’s a clear connection to who we are as a company.”