Smoothie King’s CEO, Wan Kim, wants to make the world a healthier place – one smoothie at a time.
(RestaurantNews.com) When Wan Kim opened the first Smoothie King franchise in Seoul, South Korea in 2003, he had his work cut out for him. At that time, most South Koreans had never even heard the word “smoothie” before. This meant that Kim had to grow a brand and a concept in a country that was not familiar with either.
But Kim was committed to Smoothie King. He had purchased the rights to build 50 stores in South Korea over the next five years. He quickly realized that if he was going to succeed, he would have to single-handedly create the smoothie market in South Korea from scratch.
“It wasn’t easy at first—people in South Korea saw that we were the ‘King’ of smoothies, but they still didn’t understand what a smoothie was. So I dedicated myself to educating people. I truly believe that people are always striving to be their best — to always be healthier. I knew that when people realized Smoothie King’s mission to inspire a healthy and active lifestyle, they’d eagerly embrace it. So as often as I could, I shared that story with others,” Kim said.
Kim’s dedication paid off in a big way. By 2007, his revenues grew exponentially and today, South Korea has more than 90 Smoothie King locations. Fueled by the impact that Smoothie King had on South Korea, Kim’s passion for the brand grew. So much so, that by July 2012, he decided to buy the company from its New Orleans-based founder, Steve Kuhnau. Kim brought a vision to create 1,000 franchised and corporate Smoothie King locations globally by 2017. Now, with 780 locations worldwide, it’s clear that Kim can deliver on his vision. After all, he eats, sleeps and breathes everything that Smoothie King represents—and that’s the opportunity to change people’s lives.
From the very beginning, Kim has always worn his passion for the brand on his sleeve. He has a genuine desire to help others, and by spreading Smoothie King’s mission throughout the world, he truly believes he is doing just that. That’s why his vision for Smoothie King is simple: to build an extraordinary purpose-driven brand that’s an integral part of every health and fitness plan.
“Think about the other concepts out there that you see on every street corner. They’re selling pizza, tacos and burgers. I would never ask my own children to eat these products every day. But then, I felt very comfortable with the idea of them having Smoothie King’s products regularly,” Kim said. “That’s very important to me, and it’s why I believe so strongly in this brand—you shouldn’t be shameful of the products you’re selling. You should be proud. Smoothie King was born to help people live a healthy lifestyle, and that’s something I really am proud to share with the rest of the world.”
As nutrition increasingly becomes an integral part in consumers’ lives, Kim has made it his goal to better marry taste and nourishing ingredients to fulfill these growing needs. He points to the brand’s innovative menu—Smoothie King introduced Greek Yogurt into its offerings; added a protein-packed plant-based vegan line; and even added a decadent Ghirardelli dark chocolate blend made with 100 percent cacao and only four grams of fat.
So far, the brand’s world-wide praise is a good indicator that Kim and his team are doing something right—customers recently voted Smoothie King the No. 1 brand in the Limited-Service Restaurant Beverage-Snack category in the 2016 edition of Nation’s Restaurant News’ Consumer Picks issue. To win the title, Smoothie King beat out brands like Krispy Kreme, Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts.
Even still, Kim believes that this is just the beginning for Smoothie King. As the brand continues to target more growth and more territories, Kim’s goal is to further spread Smoothie King’s mission so it becomes a household name synonymous with great-tasting, nutritious smoothies. In the same way that people can name their favorite gym when talking about working out or a favorite brand when looking for running shoes, Kim wants Smoothie King to be top of mind when it comes to finding a quick and healthy option that people can feel good about.
“I think Smoothie King can set a new bar for the way we think about food. Our healthy and active lifestyle culture is something that people need right now, and I truly believe we can dominate the world in that category,” Kim said. “What makes our brand so unique is that we are built with a strong team that really believes that the more stores we put out into the world, the more people we can reach and the more people we can inspire to lead a better life. At Smoothie King, we are proud to truly embody what we say with what we do.”
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