This annual list of the best acai bowl franchises was revised and updated on August 31, 2023.
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In recent years, acai bowls have been one of the fastest-growing healthy eating dishes in the US. They’ve tapped into a trend for superfoods, in which diet-conscious Americans look for foods that will radically improve their diets and health. This quest for the magical solution to healthy eating has boosted a range of dishes and ingredients over the years, raising them from obscurity to highly fashionable, before they settle into a less dramatic but still successful position as part of the culinary landscape. The question for acai bowl franchises is where their industry currently sits on that arc.
A Brazilian dish made from the frozen and mashed fruit of the acai palm, acai bowls have been very popular in recent years. Since appearing on the US health food scene in the early 2000s, they’ve become an increasingly popular option for those interested in health eating, tasty desserts, and culinary novelty. In response, several franchises have been founded that specialize in acai bowls and related dishes.
In the US, acai bowls are made using acai berries, fruit, nuts, and seeds, with milk, yogurt, and non-dairy substitutes, topped with more fruit and granola. Loaded up with fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, proteins, and healthy fats, they’re one of the healthiest dessert options on the market, similar in style and substance to smoothies, but with a more interesting aesthetic and added novelty value. This combination of health, flavor, and novelty has powered a period of success.
Acai bowl outlets usually don’t limit themselves to acai bowls, but serve a range of blended fruit bowls, smoothies, juices, and other dishes. This allows them to cater to a wider audience and to keep up sales during seasonal shifts in eating patterns. Because they’re based on frozen fruit, acai bowls are particularly popular in the summer. Business is likely to vary with the seasons, and any plan for a franchise should take this into account, with either alternative foods to see the business through the winter or a plan for significantly fluctuating business and revenues.
The US acai bowl industry is currently worth $454 million, with nearly a thousand businesses employing over 9,000 people. Some businesses within the industry are very focused on acai both as a product and as a branding strategy, while others have taken a broader stance, talking about fruit bowls.
Part of the appeal of acai bowls is that they can be made to look good, with fruit, seeds, and granola decorating the top. This has helped to build the social media buzz that has fueled growth. Unfortunately for acai businesses, the past year has shown signs that the buzz around acai may be fading, as the novelty wears off. Social conversations about acai bowls have declined by 48% over the past year, indicating that the period of buzz-driven growth may be coming to an end. While the global acai market is predicted to grow by 11.5% through the next six years, there’s no guarantee that the same growth will be seen in the American market, leaving it uncertain whether the industry is still growing, stabilizing into an ongoing part of the food industry, or heading into decline as other trends take its place.
The acai buzz has largely been driven most strongly by young women and the health conscious, a fact reflected in the connection between talk about acai and vegan diets. Any new outlet needs to target an area with these sorts of demographics, either as residents or as regular visitors. Positions close to gyms and sports clubs can help to draw health-conscious customers, while shops in hip and alternative neighborhoods may attract customers concerned with avoiding highly processed foods and additives. Competition comes not just from other acai bowl sellers but from juice and wellness food outlets, which provide similar products for similar demographics, and this should factor into seeking a location.
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The customer base for acai bowls tends to be environmentally conscious, and acai’s links to the Amazon accentuate this. It can be beneficial for an acai outlet to lean into environmentally friendly working practices, with reusable cups, biodegradable containers, and other green approaches. As well as protecting the planet, this fits well with acai branding and the tastes of the target market.
For businesses within the acai market, it’s important to be aware of current health trends. Anti-oxidants are expected to be the fastest-growing part of this market over the next few years, and leaning into this could help draw in health-conscious consumers.
The hype around superfoods has helped to power the rise of acai bowls, but there are now signs that this product may be past its highest hype, and even approaching market saturation. Anyone considering an acai franchise should look carefully at its performance over the past year or two, to see whether business is still thriving.
The Top 5 Acai Bowl Franchises of 2023
1. Vitality Bowls Superfood Café
Vitality Bowls Superfood Café was created out of a strong commitment to bring health and wellness to every community across the country through fresh, high-quality superfoods. This restaurant chain specializes in making delicious acai bowls, meaning a thick blend of the acai berry topped with organic granola and a selection of superfood ingredients. Other antioxidant-rich menu items include smoothies, fresh juices, soups, salads, wraps, specialty toast, and panini.
All items on the menu are made fresh to order. Even better, each location’s kitchen is designed to avoid cross contamination of common food allergens. Filler ingredients are also avoided (such as ice, frozen yogurt, or artificial preservatives) to give the purest taste possible to each item. There are always nine signature bowls on the menu, and usually a seasonal bowl as well.
Founded by Roy and Tara Gilad in San Ramon, California in 2011 and franchising since 2014, the number of locations currently stands at 76 (up from the previously reported total of 73), of which seven are company-owned and all are located in the US. The company website lists another five locations as “coming soon.”
SoBol blends its acai on the daily and uses only fresh and frozen fruit, no ice, no powder, no syrup. The chain also makes its own granola every day from fresh ingredients along with cashews and almonds. A nut-free granola is also available, and each location maintains a separate prep station for catering to all allergens. Specialty toppings are also made from good-for-you ingredients, including all-natural nut butters, heart-healthy seeds, and fruit.
Their goal is simple: making the best product, serving it up with the best customer service, and at the most competitive price. The company thinks of each store as a community gathering spot. On the menu are five signature bowls, all fully customizable, six signature smoothies, along with seven different extras that can be added in, available in single, double, and triple servings.
Founded by Jason Mazzarone and Jim Kalomiris in New York City in 2013 and franchising since 2016, there are a total of 59 locations (up from the previously reported total of 50), of which three are company-owned and all are located in the US.
3. Acai Express Superfood Bowls
Acai Express Superfood Bowls uses only 100% organic grade “A” acai berry in its bowls to maximize all the health and well-being benefits to cognition, heart health, aging, and weight loss. The menu features 12 signature acai bowls, 3 pitaya bowls, 4 mango bowls, 3 coconut bowls, 5 juice blends, 19 smoothies, lemonade customizable with 10 different fruits, 10 fruit popsicles, 9 premium popsicles, and 4 artisan toast selections.
The company sources its acai berries directly from local farmers in the Amazon Rainforest. This practice not only discourages deforestation, but also creates financial opportunities for the local farmers, their families, and the communities where they live.
Founded by Hector Westerband in Puerto Rico in 2013 and franchising since 2014, there are now 52 locations (up from the previously reported total of 35), of which seven are company-owned and all are located in the US and Puerto Rico.
4. Frutta Bowls
Frutta Bowls is all about healthy options and building community. For them, it’s not only about being in a community but being part of the community striving to get to know the surrounding community on a deeper level, creating relationships, and focusing on giving back.
On the menu are 9 signature acai bowls, 9 smoothies, and 6 signature toasts. Customers can also take the build-your-own bowl option, starting with selecting one of the 5 bases, one of the 2 granola options, three of the 7 fruit options, and two of the 13 topping options. Most locations offer gluten-free, soy-free, and dairy-free options.
Founded by Brooke Gagliano in Freehold, New Jersey in 2016 and franchising since 2017, there are now 38 locations (up from the previously reported total of 34), of which one is company-owned and all are located in the US.
5. Rush Bowls
Rush Bowls explains their commitment with these words: “Not just a respectful kinship with the Earth – a stubborn romance with health. Here at Rush Bowls our tireless devotion to honest, healthy ingredients crafted in ways that taste sinfully delicious result in the best fruit and all-natural food bowls available. Anywhere. Period.”
This quick-serve chain’s menu features 5 Destination Bowls, 4 Endurance Bowls, 5 Wellness Bowls, 4 Destination Smoothies, 4 Endurance Smoothies, and 3 Wellness Smoothies. They even make a Bow Wow Bowl for dogs. Bowls can be further enhanced with 12 different toppers and 13 different boosts.
Founded by Andrew Pudalov in Boulder, Colorado in 2004 and franchising since 2015, the number of locations has risen in recent years to the last known reported total of 34 in 2021 (up from the previously reported total of 29), of which two were company-owned and all were located in the US.
An Important Note About Our Methodology
The franchises on this list were ranked according to the number of units in the franchise system. If you are a prospective franchisee searching for franchise opportunities that meet or exceed certain performance benchmarks for sales, profits, and return on investment, please check out this list of America’s Most Lucrative Franchises.