How We Got Ahead of the Alternative Protein CrazeAuthor: Smoothie King
As a smoothie franchise whose mission has always been to inspire people to live a healthy and active lifestyle, we have consistently emphasized pursuing healthier food options, particularly for guests with specific dietary wants and needs.
Recently, fast-food hamburger chains began rolling out plant-based burgers as the demand for healthier options and the number of vegetarian consumers grow. More restaurants are realizing the demand for alternative proteins is intensifying as consumers become increasingly concerned about living healthier, the state of our environment, and the welfare of animals, such as cattle, pigs and chickens.
However, five years earlier, Smoothie King introduced vegetarian and vegan smoothies made with plant-based proteins in 2014. Well before the pressure on QSRs today, we listened to our franchisees, guests and broader consumer population to develop smoothies that would meet the burgeoning demand for alternative proteins.
Our Foray into Plant-Based Proteins Started with a Franchisee
Consumer interest in alternative protein started to pick up momentum around 2011. But, before then, Jason Finley, a multi-unit Smoothie King franchise owner in Louisiana, discovered a raw, plant-based protein powder called Sunwarrior™ at a health food conference in 2008. Because it was a clean protein, he saw how well it aligned with our mission statement and the potential it held to help generate revenue for franchise owners. By marketing our smoothies with the alternative protein ingredient, Smoothie King could attract vegetarian, as well as vegan, consumers.
Jason helped Smoothie King’s research and development department cultivate a line of vegan smoothies using the Warrior Blend powder. Offered as an enhancer today, Smoothie King guests can customize any of their smoothies with the plant-based protein powder.
The plant-based protein powder also fit in perfectly with our Clean Blends initiative of 2018, when we began using more whole fruits and organic vegetables and eliminated the use of added sugar in many of our purpose blends. It was clear to us that our guests sought healthier snack and meal alternatives, and we had room to improve. While millennials, the largest consumer group in the United States, demand pure, clean, better-for-you foods, many in other age demographics are seeing the benefits of a healthy diet and are hopping aboard the bandwagon.
Now, with the healthier eating demand including sources of protein beyond the traditional beef, poultry, pork, milk and eggs, Smoothie King smoothies are more appealing than ever before.
Demand for Alternative Protein Continues to Grow
More of our guests wanted the option of non-animal-based proteins, too. They reflected the demand of consumers across restaurant segments. The demand for non-animal meat continues to grow, and it’s driving business growth. The global meat market, according to Barclays, is $1.4 trillion in 2019. Alternative meat products account for 1 percent of that, or $14 billion. Barclays foresees the alternative meat market reaching 10 percent, or $140 billion, by 2029.
Smoothie King franchisees are positioned well to reap the rewards of that growing demand for alternative proteins.
We Keep Our Minds Open to Future Possibilities
Because we are a smoothie franchise brand that was developed to help our guests live a healthy and active lifestyle, we are set up to adjust our product to deliver on that mission. And because we listen to and work closely with our franchisees, as much as we take the pulse of consumers, Smoothie King is often able to get ahead of health trends. By doing this, consumers take notice and become our guests, the brand becomes empowered, and our franchise partners generate more revenue.