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Fewer Clubs Offer Smoothie Bars Despite Overall Market Expansion

Overland Park, KS — Statistics from the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) show the number of its member clubs with juice and snack bars dropped to 1,271 clubs in May 2009 from 1,409 in 2008.

However, they are on the rise in the broader juice and smoothie bar markets. In 2009, Juice Gallery Multimedia reported 6,400 stores nationwide, compared with 4,700 in 2005. Made-to-order smoothies sales are expected to jump to more than $2.5 billion this year, compared with $989 million in 2002, research firm Mintel predicts.

More fast-food outlets, such as McDonald's and Jack-in-the-Box, have added smoothies to their menus. Mintel estimates that ready-to-eat smoothie sales are up 139 percent since 2002 and may pass $4 billion by 2012. However, Stephanie Suddarth, president of City Blends Ltd., Dallas, which offers a turnkey juice bar system to club operators, doesn't see ready-to-eat smoothies as a threat to health club juice bars.

“Jack in the Box has smoothies out here, but they're mass produced,” Suddarth says. “The protein content is the true value of smoothies in a gym pre- and post-workout, which is something smoothies don't have in a fast-food environment. You've got a captive market in a gym, and people want a smoothie right after they work out.”

Still, Suddarth says that sales in City Blends health club juice bars have slowed slightly, and the company has noticed a slowdown in new club locations. However, the company is focusing more on improving product sales within existing clubs by developing marketing tools and improving customer service, she says.

Dan Young, CEO of Performance Food Centers, a Pottstown, PA-based juice bar provider to fitness facilities, says his company's sales have increased.

“Club owners realize that they need other sources of revenue, and juice bars — if managed properly — can yield big results,” Young says. “The members are becoming more and more educated about nutrition and continue to buy their $5 shake daily. Everybody wins. Members achieve their goals, and club owners see a return on their investment.”

Urban Active, Lexington, KY, is continuing to add juice bars to all of its new clubs, says Jan Mascola, corporate director of retail operations for Urban Active.

“Juice bars are very much a profitable add-on to our clubs, and they all have one,” says Mascola. “They are a very important piece to the success of our whole retail division, and our members have come to rely upon them for pre- and post-workouts.”

In fact, some club owners are spending money installing new juice bars instead of buying new gym equipment because juice bars offer a more immediate return on investment, Suddarth says.

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