Tasti D-Lite Acquires Planet Smoothie, LLC
Tasti D-Lite, the lower-calorie frozen dessert chain catering to health-conscious consumers, has announced the acquisition of Planet Smoothie, LLC, a national franchisor which sells smoothies and all-natural snacks to health-conscious consumers, in a deal that closed on November 30.
Over the coming months, Tasti D-Lite products will be added to select Planet Smoothie stores through self-serve machines. Likewise, Planet Smoothie menu offerings will be made available to Tasti D-Lite locations. Following this transaction, Tasti D-Lite plans to offer new franchisees the option to own and operate a co-branded store concept, which fully integrates both brands into a unique customer experience.
This acquisition is Tasti D-Lite’s latest effort in growing the chain through non-traditional development. Earlier this year, the first drive-thru Tasti D-Lite location opened in Columbia, Missouri, and the first on-campus store was opened at Duke University. In addition, Tasti D-Lite introduced its first self-serve model to the brand’s long-time full-serve model, and also introduced their first “store-within-a-store” location on Las Vegas Boulevard.
Tasti D-Lite currently has 60 locations across three countries and has already secured commitments to open more than 500 locations around the world. Including this transaction, Tasti D-Lite expects to end 2011 with 170 locations open and operating. (Planet Smoothie has more than 100 units in 16 states.)
Starbucks Acquires Evolution Fresh
The Tasti D-Lite deal comes less than a month after Starbucks’ purchase of Evolution Fresh, a premium juice business started by the original founder of Naked Juice, Jimmy Rosenberg, for $30 million in cash. Evolution Fresh, one of the only true juiceries left in the industry that still cracks, peels, presses, and squeezes its own raw fruits and vegetables, currently sells its products in retail stores including Whole Foods Markets and PCC, exclusively on the West Coast.
Over time, Starbucks plans to expand beyond Evolution Fresh’s current distribution into additional channels, as well as begin to make Evolution Fresh products available in Starbucks’ company-owned retail stores providing nationwide presence and awareness.
But what I find most exciting is Starbucks’ plans to introduce a new health and wellness retail concept in early-to-mid 2012 which will further redefine the super-premium juice category and experience. Although this new retail effort is not expected to be a franchise, Starbucks’ entry into the premium juice space will likely have a profound impact on the smoothie and juice category and the franchise players in it.
Smoothies and Juice Category: The Next Big Thing?
I recently suggested that self-serve frozen yogurt franchises ought to consider diversifying their product line by offering complementary menu items to their guests. Smoothies seem like a no-brainer for frozen yogurt shops since most of the main ingredients overlap. Well, Tasti D-Lite has beaten everyone else to the punch, but the game is far from over. The health and wellness trend is here to stay, and the space will only get more interesting as Starbucks experiments with a new retail concept focusing on premium juices next year. If frozen yogurt franchises can create a healthy beverage line that is compelling, they might be able to extend their status as the franchise category to beat for a while longer.