Smoothies: the next Korean Wave

Could Korean smoothies be the next big thing? Standard Chartered PLC seems to think so:

A South Korean cultural wave is sweeping the world, with interest surging in areas ranging from the country’s pop music to cosmetics to television dramas. Now, smoothies could be next.

At least that is what Standard Chartered PLC’s private-equity unit is banking on with a $45.5 million joint investment with Korea’s National Pension Service for a 48% stake in Smoothies Korea Inc.

The Korean fruit-blended beverage maker is trying to position itself as a healthful Starbucks-like competitor in the world of smoothies. Its 100 company-owned and franchised stores tap into the country’s café craze while offering a healthy alternative to coffee and shunning sugar as a sweetener, said Charles Huh, managing director of Standard Chartered Private Equity’s Korean arm.

And remember children, “be white.”

  • Brendon Carr

    What’s more interesting about this deal is how Smoothies Korea has used the money to buy out its American master franchisor Smoothie King: the Korea operator’s success causes it to surpass its franchisor. This is the first such deal for a Korean franchisee to buy out its franchisor.

    According to the Korea Herald, Smoothies Korea’s per-store gross sales averaged about W450,000,000 for each of its 140 units — total W64 billion. I wonder what the rent, labor, and cost of goods sold look like? What kind of margins are there in a Smoothie King store?

    I like the drinks, but I am suspicious of claims to be a health food.

  • Jieun K

    And remember children, “be white.”

    ROTFL. That doesn’t cross over very well. It’s written in English, but it’s weird English, I guess. That’s what happens when you translate literally.

    Let me point out that connotations of “whiteness” in Korea do not exactly correspond to those of Western countries where “white” people live.

    Apparently, a lot of Korean companies looking to go global are seriously challenged in different cultural perceptions…

  • ZenKimchi

    So, like the government announcement a while back about supporting Kyochon, Mr. Pizza, and Kraze Burger–this smoothie thing is another example of Korea promoting Korean culture by–repackaging western foods?

  • Brendon Carr

    Kyochon Chicken is worth promoting. If the chicken were bigger, and not prepared using a lawnmower to part the chicken, Kyochon could rule America.

  • DC Musicfreak

    I can find a smoothie on practically every corner of Washington, DC, including at McDonalds.  What, besides Konglish advertising, will Smoothie King bring? 

  • Jeff Harris

    There’s a place in south Scottsdale that has smoothies (has had them for at least 5 years). Great Korean food, but that smell of spilled sewage not yet sanitized is shockingly sickening.

    Anyway, I’ll stick with Jamba Juice and the like when I need one.

    Be White

    Isn’t it a little past the Afrikkaner Party’s time in the sun?

  • bumfromkorea

    Is that the one on McDowell and Scottsdale Rd.?  I used to work there during the summers about 8 years ago…

  • keyinjpop

    I was about to say that Jamba Juice would be their competition in the States.

  • CactusMcHarris

     That’s the one, bum. I’ve had some great meals there but the last time turned around and walked out before the owner had a chance to tell me it was a type of country kimchi cooking in the back..

  • CactusMcHarris


    It’s Booster Juice up here in la belle Canada – a pretty good product for skipping a meal for a few hours.

  • imememememe

    Kyochon’s already doing fairly well here in LA. I’m a big fan. I don’t know why they’re not opening up more chains. They could easily displace KFC’s, Popeyes and Churchs all over.

  • wangkon936

    Brendon and imememememe,

    Kyochon’s chickens are too small, take too long to prepare and are too expensive.  I can’t see it playing in Peoria.

    I get frustrated when I can get mash potatoes & gravy and/or mac & cheese sides at my local BBQ Chicken.  How do you think the average American will feel if he can’t get his chickens in less than 10 minutes, without his preferred side orders and at a price that’s almost double KFC’s?   If Korean fried chicken chains really want to go mainstream in Migukstan, they need to take a page out of El Pollo Loco and mix their chicken with American sides and other fast foods.

  • wangkon936

    Well… if these smoothies are anything like what Pinkberry and Red Mango did to frozen yogurt, they will muscle in some market share.

  • Brendon Carr

    Let’s be clear: Smoothie King is an American brand which has just recently come under Korean ownership. The Metairie, Louisiana-based chain has nearly 600 units in the US, and 140 in Korea. For purposes of a franchise system, a single operator with 140 units is a powerful force within the system.

    The new Korean ownership may be expected to make some changes, but why mess with what works? It can be expected that Smoothie King will continue to advertise in Konglish to its Konglish-speaking audience, but for Washington, D.C., it will be Spanish, as usual.

  • SomeguyinKorea

    Et, Canada est masculin, calice.  Un pays, une province.