Smoothie King Rules Specialty Drink Market
A Passion For Healthy Living Positioned Stephen Kuhnau, The Father Of The Nutritional Smoothie.
NEW ORLEANS, LA — Ask Stephen Kuhnau if he ever dreamed he'd be known as the "Smoothie King" along with spearheading the booming smoothie drink industry and you'll get a resounding "no!" But his wife, Cindy, is far from surprised. "Stephen is an incredibly determined person and that contributes to his success," she says. "He is committed to a healthy lifestyle and is passionate about spreading the word that good nutrition improves your health, your well-being and your life."
With nutritional sales exploding, that unique combination of determination, knowledge and passion has transformed Stephen from a teenager plagued with hypoglycemia, chronic allergies and skin problems into a successful entrepreneur and the proud founder of the New Orleans-based Smoothie King, a chain that combines their popular great-tasting healthy Smoothies drinks, along with a vast offering of nutritional products and supplements. The Smoothie King chain is so successful that Kuhnau projects that there will be 320 stores sold by the end of 1996, with 105 stores in operation.
Kuhnau claims that it was destiny that led him to where he is today, and that his success couldn't have come without the health struggles he faced in his youth. "As I look back on all the challenges and opportunities that I was exposed to in my life," he says, "I realize that they were all pointing me in this direction."
As a teenager in the early 60s, trips to doctors and allergists brought him no relief and left him frustrated and determined to find an alternative cure for his ailments. Working as a soda jerk at a local Hoppers Drive-In, he began experimenting with the many ingredients he had at his disposal - bananas, pineapples, strawberries and more. However, there was a twist to his shakes. Knowing that he needed additional proteins, vitamins and minerals to combat his low blood sugar, and to build his immune system, Kuhnau began adding some nutritional formulas. In addition, believing he had an allergy to whole milk, he concocted his drinks without the standard milk ingredients. The result was shakes that tasted delicious, boosted his energy and elevated his blood sugar without requiring him to consume large amounts.
Time passed and Kuhnau found himself in the army reserves and stationed at Fort San Houston in Texas where he worked as a nurse for the Brooks Burns Center. The position gave him plenty of opportunities to learn about nutrition and the effect of diet on body tissue. He followed his stint in the service with a position as a leasing executive at Ford Motor Co. in Dearborn, Michigan. When Ford opened a satellite leasing office in New Orleans, the company asked Kuhnau to be in charge. Throughout his successful years with Ford, Kuhnau continued to study nutrition and experiment with protein drinks. When he decided to go into business for himself, he realized it was natural for him to combine his business skills with his passion for nutrition.
In 1973, he mortgaged his home for $65,000 and opened Town and Country Health Foods in Kenner, Louisiana, where he offered smoothies on the side for 99 cents. Twelve years later, Kuhnau met and hired Cindy Zimmer who had worked for another local health food store for many years. Cindy's interest in nutrition stemmed from her desire to improve the health of her son who had allergies similar to Stephen's. Working together, they realized they not only shared a passion for natural foods and healthy living, they also shared a passion for each other. A few years later, they were married.
It was Cindy who had a hunch that Stephen's hallmark smoothies--formulated on the spot by blending real fruits and fruit juices with an impressive array of wholesome nutrients that Kuhnau researched and tested, along with a nutritional product store--had the potential to be more than a sideline. In 1989, they opened their first Smoothie King franchise on Baronne Street in New Orleans. Three other stores soon followed. Over the years, the steady stream of franchises have helped the company grow to 95 units open with 180 sold in 10 states. Smoothie King has over $3.5 million in franchise revenues and over seven million Smoothies sold in the past 12 months. Smoothie King is also the only business of its kind that carries the endorsement of Heart-Smart Restaurants International for 30 of their 36 Smoothie drinks. And the Kuhnau's are positioning themselves for smooth and steady growth long into the future. "Our ultimate goal is to have Smoothie Kings wherever people gather throughout the world," says Kuhnau with an energy and enthusiasm that is contagious.
Smoothies may have brought Kuhnau great success, but the richest reward, he says, comes from the satisfaction he gets when customers become converted to maintaining a healthy lifestyle with the help of his smoothies and nutritional products. "When customers tell me they have more energy and feel better," he says, "it's the best feeling in the world."
About Smoothie King:
Smoothie King is a privately held New Orleans, Louisiana-area based franchise company and is the premier Smoothie Bar and Nutritional Lifestyle Center in the industry. Smoothie King centers offer to their guests the industry’s first and original nutritional fruit and function-based, fresh blended smoothies. Each "Lifestyle Center" also offers healthy retail product solutions in sport beverages, energy bars, healthy snacks, vitamin supplements, herbs, minerals, and sports nutrition products. The Company opened its first store in 1973 and started as the first franchised smoothie bar/ health food store business in the United States in 1989. During the first quarter of 2001, Entrepreneur Magazine rated Smoothie King as the #1 Franchise in their industry segment for the twelfth consecutive year. At the end of the second quarter of 2001, Smoothie King posted 270 locations operating in 29 states, which is a 19% increase in new operating units over the entire previous years efforts. Smoothie King currently has an additional 72 units under development and will have over 300 units operating in 30 states before year-end. This is another key milestone met by the new Smoothie King management team.
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