It has been a year of extraordinary expansion for one of America’s favorite franchises. Adding 180 trucks in just the past 18 months, Kona Ice is on an ascent that will continue in 2013 and beyond.

The excitement around Kona Ice stems from the brand’s entrance into top-tier U.S. markets with new franchisees, updated trucks, and the recently launched Kona Mini, an innovative pushcart service station.

As it has emerged into America’s consciousness, Kona Ice has been able to significantly increase its ongoing community give back program, which has now surpassed $6 million.

“During the past year, we’ve done some amazing things. From releasing the latest version of the Kona Ice truck to announcing the launch of the Kona Mini, we’ve progressed immensely,” says Tony Lamb, founder and president of Florence, Kentucky–based Kona Ice. “We’ve grown at a rate none of us could have predicted. But the fact is we’re an infectious brand and people want more.”

Adding one truck every three days, the brand has gone from 200 trucks to more than 300 trucks in just nine months.

Production has begun on more than 40 trucks for next year, and current projections call for a total of 500 trucks on the road by the end of 2013.

In it’s sixth iteration, the trucks feature LED lighting both inside and outside of the truck, as well as numerous environmentally conscious additions. The new model blends the same engaging Tiki Top, eye-popping façade, and fun calypso music with some new enhancements.

While much of the growth is a result of new franchisees joining the system, existing franchisees see how to better satisfy their Kona-crazed communities by adding additional units at a rapid rate. The additional truck will ensure they’re able to serve more families, schools, neighborhood organizations, and businesses in their territory.

Another way franchisees are trying to meet the growing demand for Kona Ice is with the Kona Mini, a recent innovation that Kona Ice brought to market in late 2012 to extend the brand’s reach.

An exact miniature replica of the truck, the mini is designed to serve indoor and smaller outdoor venues such as little league games, zoos, and shoppingmalls. More accessible to the masses in communities coast to coast, the Mini is helping the brand overcome seasonality challenges and space limitations.

“The Mini, as well as the addition of more trucks, have allowed our franchisees to penetrate new markets in places such as Northern Illinois, Long Island, Phoenix, and Southern Florida,” Lamb says. “We’re bringing the Kona Ice experience to every state, every town, and every neighborhood, indoors and out. We want our fluffy snow to reach every mouth in every corner of the country.”

Many communities share Tony’s sentiment, as the brand continues to give back to community organizations nationwide.

Within the past year, Kona Ice has given back more than $2 million to the communities it serves. Expecting to reach $10 million by early next year, the brand has donated a total of $6 million dollars since its beginning in 2007.

Fostering this devoted fundraising are the partnerships Kona Ice cultivates with school groups, community-based organizations, and local sports teams.

During fundraising events, Kona Ice gives a percentage of sales back to the organizing group. Groups can also buy prepaid Kona Ice cards at a discount and sell them for full price to raise funds.

Providing entrepreneurs interested in investing in the franchise a full suite of support services ranging from initial and ongoing training to sales and marketing programs, the affordable Kona Ice franchise fee is only $15,000. Plus, Kona Ice offers its owners financing programs for the purchase of trucks and the Minis.

Ideal franchise candidates are outgoing individuals, husbands and wives, fathers and sons, and other two-person teams that love the idea of serving the community.

Charitable Giving, Denise Lee Yohn: QSR's Marketing Guru, Desserts, Growth, News, Kona Ice