• Wed. Nov 30th, 2022

Smoothies and Mini Meals Dominate the Top 500 Snacks Category | Franchise News

ByStephanie M. Akbar

Oct 25, 2022

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Tropical Smoothie ended 2021 with an AUV of $1,009,803.


In 2021, with many restaurants focused on recovering sales after a horrible 2020, Tropical Smoothie Cafe was already on its way to a milestone: $1 million in average unit sales.

“It’s definitely been a win for us at the brand,” said Cheryl Fletcher, director of development. Tropical Smoothie ended 2021 with an AUV of $1,009,803.

Rated tropical smoothie No. 102 on FranchiseTimes Top 500 List, up from No. 112. In 2021, the brand grossed $948 million from 1,039 stores nationwide. The Top 500 is an annual ranking of the 500 largest US-based franchise systems by worldwide system-wide sales.

“One of the things our team is really focused on is continuing to grow,” Fletcher said. The brand regularly opens around 100 or more stores per year. Last year, about 70% of new franchisees signed up for multiple locations, Fletcher said.

Tropical Smoothie serves flatbreads, sandwiches, and salads, among other entrees, as well as smoothies, which customers can spice up with various extras or supplements. The initial investment required to open a Tropical Smoothie location ranges from $277,000 to $584,000.

Tropical Smoothie sits in the middle of the snack category, behind brands such as Wetzel Pretzels and Aunt Anne’s. The Top 500 snack franchises generated $21.3 billion in sales last year, up 22.4%. Wetzel’s number 249, versus 279, and Auntie Anne’s number 124, versus 146. Brand giants such as Dunkin’, Jamba and Tim Hortons fell to the bottom of the snack category by percentage of sales growth, but still saw an increase of around 20%.

More than half of the 13 snack brands on the Top 500 list are juice or smoothie restaurants. With $43 million in sales, Juice It Up generated the least revenue in 2021, behind Robek’s Fresh Juices & Smoothies’ $50 million and Clean Juice’s $59 million.

The rise of “mini-meals”







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Wetzel’s pretzels, the top performer in its category, saw an average increase of 25% in same-store sales from 2019 to 2021. “It was just amazingly strong,” said CEO Jennifer Schuler.


Wetzel’s pretzels, the top performer in its category, saw an average increase of 25% in same-store sales from 2019 to 2021. “It was just amazingly strong,” said CEO Jennifer Schuler.

Much of that growth has to do with how consumers’ eating habits have changed, Schuler said. The brand has focused on “mini meals” for those who need a quick and filling option on the go or between meals. Wetzel’s has also added protein to many dishes on its menu, such as pepperoni on pizza bites.

Last year saw the launch of a boba tea line and an emphasis on combo menu offerings “that make it easy for a customer to order a meal,” Schuler said. “Before, they kind of did it on their own.”

The shift in dining occasions and consumer preferences “will create opportunities in the snack space to understand how you meet that need and what people are looking for in terms of a snack,” Schuler continued. A snack used to be thought of as something to munch on, like a bag of crisps or an apple, but people are turning to more filling options, she said.

Auntie Anne’s, part of the Focus Brands portfolio, also spent 2021 promoting mini meals.

“We really focused a lot on our nugget platform and our mini dogs, which have many applications for people’s lives,” said brand manager Alisa Gmelich. “They are portable. They are shareable. I think this really puts the guest in the driver’s seat to determine if it’s a snack? Is it a meal?

In early 2021, Focus opened its first co-branded Jamba and Auntie Anne’s with a drive-thru in Wylie, Texas.







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In early 2021, Focus opened its first co-branded Jamba and Auntie Anne’s with a drive-thru in Wylie, Texas.


“It was incredibly, incredibly successful,” Gmelich said. “And when we launched it, we were super excited about it. And we knew the guests loved it. I feel like every time we talk about it, the guests and the fans are from more and more excited.

The total investment needed to open a traditional Auntie Anne’s store is $146,050 to $523,500. Investments in Cinnabon or Jamba co-branded stores range from $280,050 to $804,500.

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