Smoothie King’s CEO on ‘Smoothies With a Purpose,’ Backing Into Solutions, and Work-Life Balance

Wan Kim talks about the company's relocation to Irving and how Smoothie King wants to become a part of your fitness and health regimen with a mix of new ideas such as the Cleaner Blending Initiative.

Smoothie King

Smoothie King founder Steve Kuhnau started the company in 1973 as a way to help solve his food allergies by creating nutritious smoothie drinks. For decades, the company was based in Metairie, Louisiana, and went international with its franchises in 2003.

Current CEO Wan Kim, a Smoothie King master franchiser, took the reins of the company in 2012, and he’s built it to more than 800 locations, with expansion ongoing across three continents. This year, Smoothie King relocated its headquarters to Cypress Waters in Irving and Kim took time to answer a few questions about the move. 

What sets Smoothie King apart from other businesses in your industry?

It is our mission to inspire people to live healthy and active lifestyles. We’re not just selling great-tasting smoothies; we want to be an integral part of people’s health and fitness journeys.

That is why we launched our Cleaner Blending Initiative, which focuses on making our smoothies with more whole fruits and vegetables while removing all added sugar, artificial preservatives, colors, and flavors.

We’re also collaborating with organizations like the American Cancer Society and Premama, an award-winning prenatal supplement brand, to create our “Smoothies With A Purpose,” that can help people on their unique health, wellness and fitness journeys. We believe our mission and vision are fueling our growth at a time when people are changing the way they want to eat.

Looking ahead, what innovations within your industry are exciting?

It’s exciting to be at the forefront of the changing way people eat. We believe our Cleaner Blending Initiative will really resonate with current and new guests who are looking for quick healthy meal solutions to meet their health and fitness goals. Even our approach to creating new smoothies is innovative. Instead of just coming up with new recipes based on flavor profiles and current food trends, we think of what our guests need to support their health and fitness journeys. We work back from there to fill that need.

For example, one of our newest smoothies, called The Daily Warrior, was created because we recognized that we have guests who face challenges meeting their daily caloric and nutritional needs. We collaborated with the American Cancer Society to develop a great-tasting smoothie to deliver a high level of calories and important nutrients for overall health.

We’re also making moves to be more socially responsible. For example, we transitioned to recyclable plastic cups so that we all can enjoy our environment for years to come. We’ve also introduced the Hydrate and Help private label spring water to support the Challenged Athletes Foundation.

Tell us about the Smoothie King operations coming to DFW. How many people will relocate?

We’ve moved into our new office, and we have about 70 people here. We see that number increasing because Smoothie King is growing very quickly right now. This year, we plan to open more than 150 new locations—the most we’ve ever opened in the U.S. in a single year.

In your site selection process, what tipped the scale in favor of the Cypress Waters location in Irving?  

There were a number of factors. Because we’re in a new building, we had the opportunity to create a beautiful, modern space with all the amenities we need—including a test kitchen—plus room to grow. The lake views bring the outside in, and the lakeside path right outside the building allows our team members to be active, which supports their fitness goals while at work.

From a lifestyle standpoint, Cypress Waters is close to great communities for our employees to live in and has easy access to Dallas Fort Worth International Airport.

How does North Texas fit into the work-life needs of your employees?

The area has so much to offer, with affordable living, great schools, city life, culture, and the arts, sports, access to travel, plus lakes, trails, and parks. Our location, in particular, is the best of both worlds, offering easy access to great communities and schools, but still only a short drive from downtown. We think our team can enjoy active, healthy lifestyles in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

DFW has become known as a hub for the food and beverage industry. How did that influence your selection process?

 That was a major factor, both in terms of having an outstanding local talent pool and proximity to high-quality vendors.

Smoothie King is a growing company — you just announced a 50-store expansion in Michigan, for example. How does DFW’s central location enhance your company’s operations nationwide?

Our new location connects us with our national – and international – markets because it’s easier for us to travel to them and for people to come to us, even for a short day trip. As we’ve grown and continue to grow, it just made sense to be more accessible to current and future partners.

A version of this article appeared in the Dallas-Fort Worth Real Estate Review, Summer 2018.


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