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[ 0 ] Mar. 5, 2012 | SBO Editor

Fresh-fruit franchise offers juice bar or store & a mobile ordering app.

Who would have thought that something so simple…and simply divine, as the well-loved frozen-fruit concoction known as a smoothie, would remain an unblemished survivor 50 years after its inception? This drink’s precarious survival would hinge, not just upon consumers’ ever-changing tastes, but on a battered economy’s recovery.

Frank Easterbrook, for one, is glad the smoothie has evolved. He is the President and CEO of Juice It Up!, a “Southern California style” juice bar and one of the top smoothie industry survivors, with its blended-to-order fresh-fruit smoothies, fresh-squeezed juices and other beverages.

Currently operating under the management services company of Balboa Brands, Inc. (BBI), and franchisor, LLJ Franchise, LLC, since Feb. 2010, Juice It Up! has 91 units in Arizona, Texas, California, and New York, with the anticipation of “between six and 10 new stores by the end of 2012,” he said. Easterbrook sees growth primarily in the Midwest and Northeast coast. “I would like to see three to four additional locations in Texas and Arizona by the end of 2012.

“We would love to continue our growth in non-traditional locations, such as college/university campuses and gyms/fitness centers,” he added. “Since January 2010, we launched and opened two new Juice It Up* Frozen Yogurt stores, which are self-serve—one corporate-owned on the campus at Cal State-Fullerton, and the other in the Temecula Promenade, in addition to the 15 co-branded smoothie/juice and yogurt stores already in operation,” Easterbrook said.

Juice It Up!, however, has hardly been immune to the country’s economic woes; instead of aggressively opening multiple franchises, Easterbrook said, the company closed 79 stores from 2008-2010 for a variety of reasons. The main force was the result of the imploding economy on consumer spending trends as it was for so many other businesses during this period. After dealing with the closures, which streamlined the system, they chose “to focus on the existing store base, assisting franchisees with negotiating lower rent rates, paying out lease settlements… oftentimes reducing or waiving royalty payments and continuing our marketing efforts, which ultimately helped our brand survive and thrive.”

To continually lure and titillate the tastes of fickle consumers in a downturn market, Easterbrook has made many changes, with “the resurgence of fresh-squeezed juicing into our new store designs, including a dedicated juice bar where you actually see and smell the colorful and vibrant fruits and vegetables that are going to be squeezed into your drink, creating a banquet for your senses.”

Juice It Up! was also the first smoothie giant to recently offer a mobile ordering application. The application allows iPhone and Android users to find the closest location, place orders and pay for them. The app is available at five of its Southern California locations: La Verne, Santa Ana, Lake Elsinore, Cal State University-Fullerton, and Fontana, with plans to include all locations within the next six months.

By 2015 shoppers are expected to spend about $119 billion on goods and services purchased from their mobile phones, according to a mobile research study conducted by ABI Research. “Juice It Up! fully intends to take advantage of those numbers with a custom, branded mobile app,” said Carol Skinner, Sr. Director of Marketing for Juice It Up!.

Juice It Up! can be found on facebook (facebook.com/Juiceitup) and twitter.com/livelifejuiced, with reviews addressed on Yelp. The company recently received a Best Website Design award from the Internet Marketing Association and is ahead of the curve of many others in the area of social/mobile marketing, thanks to Aaron Aslin, the social media specialist for BBI.

Franchisees now have “three unit options when investing: a juice and smoothie bar, yogurt store or combo (both concepts in one). We reduced our franchise fee to meet the economic downturn, and offer a $10,000 franchise fee discount to veterans,” he said.

The company opened its first store in a strip shopping center in Brea, California, in 1995 and began franchising in 1998. The stores are located in retail, food, entertainment or theme centers with heavy foot traffic and accessibility to short-term parking.

Classic smoothies remain the company’s core product, made from a healthy blend of real fruit, non-fat yogurt with proprietary recipes. There is also a non-dairy version. Juice It Up! smoothies contain up to five servings of individually quick-frozen fresh fruit, as opposed to purees or artificial sweeteners used by some smoothie concepts.

The company’s Delightful Blends is a lighter line, with more fiber, fewer carbs, calories and sugar, without sacrificing taste. In 2001 the Brazilian Blends smoothie and bowl line was introduced, featuring tropical fruits from the Brazilian Amazon, including the açaí (ah-sigh-ee) smoothie. It was followed in 2005 with The Healthy Way fresh-squeezed juices. A full line of açaí bowls was introduced in 2010, and the company is in development of an expanded line of fresh-squeezed juice blends that offer increased options to suit the customers’ taste buds and nutritional needs.

“Today, the Juice It Up! philosophy remains as refreshing as its product,” Easterbrook said. “We stay true to the roots of our industry, using fresh produce to create juices that are good for you.”

For more info contact Balboa Brands, Inc. in Irvine, CA: Phone 949-475-0146, ext. 225 or visit: www.juiceitup.com

Frank Easterbook is the president and CEO of Juice It Up! The franchise offers fresh juice products in its smoothie concoctions that are really taking off. The company recently added a mobile ordering app that enables iPhone and Android users to find the nearest location, order and pay for their smoothies. The smoothie has evolved and its name is Juice It Up!

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Category: Magazine, Start Your Own Business Summer 2012