Jugo Juice: Leading the Charge for Healthy Options On-the-go

Derek Brock and Jason Cunningham started Jugo Juice in 1998, after working for Starbucks for several years. Their vision was to create an experience as welcoming, tasty, customer-driven and quality-centric as Starbucks … but with fruit. Jugo Juice made waves with its signature smoothies, which pack five-plus servings of fruit in every cup.

Over the past decade-and-a-half, the Jugo Juice menu has expanded to offer additional items (such as grilled wraps and paninis) to cater to increasingly health-conscious consumers with on-the-go lifestyles, and what started out as Calgary’s local smoothie spot has evolved to become one of Canada’s largest QSR franchise organizations. With more than 140 owner-operated locations in traditional and non-traditional markets, the Jugo Juice brand has become synonymous with healthy eating.

Jugo Juice strives to debunk the myth that eating in a fast-paced world has to compromise health for convenience, or that healthy alternatives sacrifice flavour. Pouring this philosophy into every cup, Jugo Juice has built a core business model around smoothie and fresh-pressed juice products made from fruits flash-frozen at the peak of freshness to preserve nutrient content and flavor. Artificial sweeteners, unnatural fillers and mystery ingredients are entirely left out of the recipe; the ingredients listed on the menu are the only things that make their way into the cup. To prove this philosophy the stores are designed so that customers can watch the real, whole fruit and 100-percent real juice being blended before their eyes, and poured into a clear cup so that the pure ingredients and velvety consistency are visible.

That cup, incidentally, happens to be made of polypropylene plastic, which is more easily recyclable and produced with lower environmental impact than traditional PET plastic. This is just one of the many ways Jugo Juice is committed to lessening the company’s current and future impact on the Earth’s resources.

Moving Beyond Smoothies

The marketplace immediately responded to Brock and Cunningham’s concept, which was strengthened by the duo’s previous experience with the Starbuck’s brand and business philosophy, and soon Jugo Juice was opening locations with lightening speed. In 2006 the co-founders brought in key strategic help with the hiring of Kara Claypool, Jugo Juice senior vice president. Claypool had previously spent 10 years working at various posts for Big Rock Brewery and obtaining her Certified Management Accounting designation. In her first five years Jugo Juice saw a 138-percent increase in sales and 70 new locations added to the Jugo Juice family.

“I’ve always had an affinity to consumer brands and working at Jugo Juice provided me with the opportunity to work with two very creative entrepreneurs and develop long-term strategies to grow a small brand into a nationally respected player in QSR,” reflects Claypool. When the economic downturn hit, Claypool worked with the entire Jugo Juice team to develop new products and marketing strategies to provide more options for the price-sensitive customer, while taking care to keep quality consistent and to assure no business decisions sacrificed long-term growth for short-term promotions.

For example, Jugo Juice refused to change its pricing structure to create the illusion of value, and instead focused on increasing revenue streams by expanding its menu to satisfy wider tastes. “We have over 140 individual store owners, and in lowering our prices it’s more likely that we would be taking money out of the pockets of those whose livelihoods rest on the success of our brand,” explains Claypool.

Increasing the company’s menu options was more than just a response to the immediate economic landscape; Jugo Juice’s trajectory has always taken into consideration all facets of a healthy lifestyle, so diversification fit with the company’s core mission to offer the highest quality ingredients and new flavors. Consumers can now find grilled wraps and flatbreads, yogurt parfaits and snack-portioned smoothies for a healthy option at any time of day.

Seeing the opportunities in the sector, competitors have attempted to encroach on Jugo Juice’s niche, but the company has strategically opened up new avenues built on the same authentic, uncompromised offering for a healthy lifestyle. “Five years ago it was clear that other QSR companies would be creeping into this market, but we have taken a very deliberate stand in establishing how the Jugo Juice smoothie is different,” asserts Claypool.

Jugo Juice has laid a recognized and solid foundation with the industry’s highest-quality smoothie, featuring five-plus servings of fruit and 100-percent real juice. Now, the company is able to build on that reputable foundation to expand its offerings. For example, Jugo Juice has made strides in promoting Jugo Juice offerings as an optimal breakfast choice. The company introduced a new line of handmade granola bars, parfaits, freshly squeezed orange juice and breakfast wraps to provide customers with even more reasons to visit.

“It’s difficult to really make a mark in the breakfast market without a coffee option, but we have a focused strategy to help consumers recognize us as more than just a lunch destination,” expands Claypool. Even without a coffee component, Jugo Juice’s expansion into the breakfast market has gained traction.

Feels Good, Tastes Better

These new offerings have been so successful that health centers, medical centers, universities and corporate entities in need of healthier QSR options have approached Jugo Juice. “Many times the board of directors of these institutions will have a mandate to eliminate certain options and provide healthy alternatives and we’re very happy to have that identity and positive reputation in our market,” says Claypool. For instance, in 2011 Jugo Juice opened new locations at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto and at Bell Center in Montreal.

Jugo Juice franchises have become well established throughout shopping centers, office towers, along street fronts and in transportation hubs, which are attracted to the company’s corporate initiatives to promote well being both bodily and environmentally. Every Jugo Juice location is built with as much recyclable material as possible – with composite counter tops made of recycled material, high-efficiency lighting systems, water filters and energy-efficient appliances. At select locations Bullfrog Power Supply, a company brokering entirely low-impact renewable energy sources, supplies power.

Additionally, Jugo Juice supports the community through such activities as the annual Jugo Juice Smile Day, when Calgary area franchises donate $1 from every smoothie sold to childhood cancer charities. Some franchise partners take the concept a step further and host additional events to mark special occasions. When Ramandeep Behla opened the new Jugo Juice location in Chestermere, Alberta, the team celebrated its grand opening with a fundraiser. So far, the Jugo Juice family has raised over $70,000 for the Kids Cancer Care Foundation.

In the coming years, the Jugo Juice team will continue to blend up delicious smoothies, while continuing to innovate and offer additional options to keep business as healthy as the menu. “As we expand our menu, the quality, consistency and integrity will have to be bang-on every day at every location,” says Claypool. “In 2012, we’ll be exploring options to consolidate those operations without compromising any of those three key components.”

As Jugo Juice turns the corner into its next era of tactical growth, the company’s management team will work with franchise owners to promote greater consumer awareness of the company’s efforts toward improving healthy eating habits and community involvement. In its first 14 years Jugo Juice has already proven that on-the-go options don’t have to compromise on taste or health benefits, and as the company grows it will cement its place as a proactive force offering juicy opportunities in the QSR market.