Getting organic food in the hands of everyone is one of the ultimate goals for our industry.
And while we have made great progress with supermarkets throughout the country carrying organic products, the same cannot be said for the ubiquity of organic restaurants.
In much of the U.S., finding a certified organic restaurant is impossible. They just don’t exist.
Yet, no company is doing more to change this than Charlotte-based Clean Juice.
Founded in 2014, the company now has 80 stores open and another 60 in development, with locations in 23 states.
“We are the first ones to take an organic food concept to scale on a national level,” said Clean Juice CEO Landon Eckles, who founded the company with his wife Kat.
NO INITIAL PLANS TO FRANCHISE
After having her first child 13 years ago, Kat Eckles switched to an organic diet and soon got her whole family eating the same way. And with her husband Landon constantly on the road for his job, the pair sought a different life for themselves and eventually opted to create something together.
What they decided on was a juice bar business, but Kat Eckles was adamant about one thing.
“It had to be certified organic. That was non-negotiable,” she said.
After they developed the initial concept and menu, they embarked on the process of getting USDA organic certification for Clean Juice. However, this was no easy endeavor.
“CCOF made us operate for 6-12 months before they would certify us, as they wanted to see a purchase history. To this day, they audit us very frequently,” acknowledged Landon Eckles.
When the first few units were up and running — and doing well — they were approached by people who suggested that they look into franchising Clean Juice. Not only was this never part of their initial plan, but it was an area that they knew nothing about.
After researching this option, the husband and wife founders realized that the fastest way to grow their brand was through franchising and that Clean Juice’s major point of differentiation — being a USDA certified organic franchise concept — could serve as a major strategic advantage.
This proved correct, as potential franchisees, including former UFC Champion T.J. Dillashaw, flocked to the company to open up stores.
The industry has also been taking notice.
In 2018, Clean Juice was the grand prize winner of the International Franchise Association’s NextGen in Franchising Global Competition and was selected first out of 900 applicants.
“Franchising can have a negative connotation, especially with a lot of cheaper brands. We have tried to bring a modern, organic and healthy brand to this category,” said Landon Eckles.
EVOLVING TO 500
At Clean Juice, all food and cold-pressed juices are made fresh on the premises of each location, and there is no central commissary where food is prepared. Beverages (smoothies, protein smoothies, juices and shots) account for roughly 65% of sales while food items (toasts, acai bowls and Greenoa bowls) make up the remaining 35%.
As the company is growing, it is also evolving, hoping to even out the beverage/food sales ratio to 50/50 and get more people to come in during breakfast and dinner hours. Lunchtime is the busiest part of the day.
Wraps are currently being piloted in the Charlotte market and should be rolled out to the rest of the stores in 2020. Catering is a major focus in the year ahead, and all of the 3rd-party delivery apps, such as Uber Eats, Doordash and Postmates, are now online for each franchisee.
This is all part of an effort to not only satisfy the needs of its customer base but also to hit the company’s internal goal of 500 stores within the next 3-5 years.
Given that less than 5% of franchising concepts ever get to 100 stores within a 10-year period — a goal the company should reach next February — what Clean Juice has accomplished so far is incredibly impressive. Furthermore, the company has not only survived the last few years where a juice bar shakeout has taken place (the closing of influential juice chains such as Organic Avenue, Juice Served Here and JugoFresh), but the company has thrived and grown faster than any of its competition.
As Clean Juice continues its torrid expansion, it is a huge win for consumers and the overall organic category.
Just as important, it demonstrates to other entrepreneurs the viability of well-run, USDA certified organic franchise concepts.
Because certified organic restaurants need to become the norm, not the exception.
(Clean Juice Co-Founders Landon and Kat Eckles)
Max Goldberg, Founder
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* Rodale Institute is launching a family-focused clean water initiative.
* The New York Times is shocked, like the rest of us, that chlorpyrifos has not been banned.
* Planet Organic founder Renée Elliott on starting her business, surviving a coup and choosing your priorities.
* The world’s first television hemp reality show.
* Hollywood actress Megan Fox has revealed that she sends her sons to an ‘organic, sustainable, vegan school.’
* An organic farm in San Diego hopes to feed 5,000 more low-income residents.
* NOFA-NY’s Winter Conference will take place January 17-19, 2020 at the Oncenter in Syracuse.
* Due to the holidays next week, we will not be publishing but will resume on Thursday, January 2nd.