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Jamba recasts itself to address new market realities

Photograph: Shutterstock

Jamba is dropping “Juice” from its name and overhauling its menu in what the 29-year-old chain describes as a sweeping update to reflect changing consumer preferences and habits.

The recast extends to operations and design. Units will be outfitted with kiosks where customers can input their orders, as well as self-service coolers where they can retrieve smoothies, juices or bowls ordered online or via a new app. The setup should speed service and enable employees to be more efficient, Jamba President Geoff Henry said in an interview with Restaurant Business.

“We’re growing up with our customers,” said Henry, who ascended to president in January, a few months after Jamba was acquired by multibrand operator Focus Brands. 

He cites the example of bowls, a menu selection that virtually didn’t exist for Jamba, or the industry, when the brand was founded nearly 30 years ago by exercise and cycling enthusiast Kirk Perron. “Now, that’s one of our fastest-growing categories,” Henry said.

Jamba’s heritage as a juice and smoothie specialist—the founding notion was to provide a meal in a cup—will be reflected in a tag line underneath the brand logo: “Smoothies, Juices and Bowls.”  The new positioning enables the brand to play up the new breadth of its menu without abandoning a three-decade heritage.

As part of the menu evolution, 850-unit Jamba will showcase items that are lower in sugar and higher in plant content, Henry said. Jamba also intends to add breakfast sandwiches, seasonal items and “on-the-go bites.” The tweaks should add traffic at breakfast and lunch, according to Henry. 

The concept will continue to emphasize health by embracing ingredients of the moment such as blue spirulina, a pigment derived from blue-green algae. The additive is believed to deliver a number of health benefits.

Henry would not reveal how much a conversion to Jamba’s new store design will cost franchisees. He described the new look as abounding in freshness cues.

Juice joints and smoothie makers were still a rarity when Jamba launched in California in 1990. Henry said the brand rechristening should be painless because many customers already refer to the concept as Jamba. 

Jamba has been working on its recast for 18 months, or before Focus bought up the then-public company’s stock for about $200 million. Being part of a large restaurant group that also includes Moe’s Southwest Grill and Schlotzsky’s, Jamba’s management was able to avail itself of Focus’ in-house technology and design capabilities, Henry said.

Jamba operates in 36 states.

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