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Ones to Watch | By Sabrina Davis

Tropical Smoothie Café
Smoothie from Tropical Smoothie Cafe.

Tropical Smoothie Café’s focus on quality—from ingredients to company operations—is what gives the brand an edge in the highly competitive smoothie segment, according to company leaders. With 250 stores open in 28 states and 200 under development, the company is on target to meet an ambitious goal of having 1,300 operating units by 2012.

It’s not just the company leaders touting the brand’s promise. Tropical Smoothie has been inching its way up Entrepreneur magazine’s Franchise 500 list since 2004, hitting the No. 127 mark this year. It’s No. 78 on Entrepreneur’s Fastest Growing Franchise list, behind only Smoothie King among juice bars.

Eric and Delora Jenrich opened their first store in Tallahassee, Florida, in 1997 as a smoothies-only concept, but quickly decided a full café would help them better compete, explains Barbara Valentino, director of marketing and communications. The company formed strategic partnerships with vendors—including Boar’s Head meats and cheeses, Ghirardelli chocolate, and Splenda—to give a recognizable premium quality to the menu.

“The consumers vote with their disposable income,” Valentino says. “It’s been our goal to create an unparalleled customer experience. There is not anyone on a national scale using the highest quality ingredients as we do. Our smoothies are made with real fruit and turbinado sugar—the purest form of sugar—or Splenda. There are no syrups or processed ingredients.”

Tropical Smoothie’s Splenda-sweetened Splendid Smoothies have less than 200 calories per 24 ounces. Other smoothie categories are low fat, power, and dessert (made with Ghirardelli chocolate).

Tropical Smoothie standardized its food menu last year as part of its vision to become a large-scale national chain. The vast selection of sandwiches, salads, and soups, and sophisticated flavors make it clear that food is not an afterthought.

Wraps and bagel sandwiches make up the breakfast menu. The top-selling lunch/dinner items are the wraps. The selection of 12 includes the King Caesar (chicken and Caesar salad ingredients), the Jamaican Jerk Chicken (chicken, southwestern rice, corn, black beans, asparagus, onions, low-fat mozzarella, and Jamaican jerk sauce), and the Totally Turkey (turkey, romaine lettuce, diced tomatoes, Swiss cheese, and light ranch dressing). There also are 10 sandwiches, five salads, and a soup of the day.

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