The Untold Truth Of Smoothie King

While you might not want to sip on a smoothie every day, the refreshing beverage has been a hit over the years for good reason: They're convenient, they can be packed with antioxidants, nutrients, added protein, and the beverage's abundance of fruit and veggies offers a fiber boost that most people miss out on with typical fast food fare (via Healthline).

Nearly 50 years ago, Smoothie King was the first chain on the scene. By 1989, the company opened its very first franchise in New Orleans. Nowadays, it operates more than 1,000 locations across three different continents. Smoothie King franchises have steadily grown in numbers as the smoothie trend remains on the up and up, according to Franchise Chatter. The outlet reports that 85 new locations popped up in 2018. But do you know how the juice bar got its start — and, more importantly — how it got to where it is today?

Steven Kuhnau was the original Smoothie King

While crushed up fruit mixed with fruit juice has been long present in several cultures, Steven Kuhnau first stumbled upon the smoothie independently. In 1970, Kuhnau was trying to solve a problem of his own. He was lactose intolerant, and so he couldn't enjoy the popular milkshakes his friends were raving about. Kuhnau attempted to replicate a refreshing shake with fruit, ice, and juice, and was pleasantly surprised when his blood sugar was controlled as a result of drinking them often (via Juice Stop Sioux Falls).

By 1973, Kuhnau took his discovery to the public. He opened a health food store and served the smoothies with vitamins (via Smoothie King). For years, Kuhnau's Smoothie King success grew alongside the smoothie trend as a whole and both became a national hit, eventually turning into a multi-billion dollar industry.

In 2012, franchisee Wan Kim purchased the company from Kuhnau and vowed to refocus Smoothie King's mission. His goal? "We want to be the integral part of every health and fitness journey," he told Forbes.

The chain has rebranded in recent years to prioritize "Smoothies with a Purpose"

Smoothie King's beverages weren't always the epitome of health, though. take, for example, the Peanut Power Plus Grape smoothie. Clocking in at a whopping 1,460 calories per 40-ounce serving, this monstrous smoothie was specifically named in the Center for Science in the Public Interest's 2013 Xtreme Eating Awards for its absolute lack of nutritional substance. According to the CSPI, the smoothie is packed with over six days' worth of added sugar.

As CEO, Kim is now gearing the company in a new direction: "Smoothies with a Purpose." In the interview with Forbes, he explained that some of these calorie-packed smoothies do serve a purpose. The Hulk, for example, is a 1,000-calorie vehicle to help customers to gain weight if they're going through chemotherapy. Lighter options are available too, like the Angel Food Slim Blend smoothie.

Nowadays, the company is pivoting towards a more balanced approach to healthy eating, since health has a different definition for everyone. According to Franchise Chatter, the company is now promoting a Clean Blends initiative by expanding its menu to include more fruit and veggie-loaded options with zero added sugar.