As the First Franchise Brand to Establish a USDA-Certified Organic Product, Clean Juice Has Raised the Bar in Fast-Casual Franchising
Landon and Kat Eckles never intended to be pioneers in the franchise industry, but that’s exactly what happened with Clean Juice, their organic juice bar concept. It all started with Kat’s search for better fast-casual food options for her growing family. “I found myself bringing my kids to play dates at McDonald’s, which was not at all what I wanted,” she says. “There weren’t a lot of places to go for quick and healthy food at the time.” With a mission to help people eat healthier, the couple opened the first Clean Juice shop in Huntersville, North Carolina in 2014.
As it turns out, Kat and Landon were not the only ones who appreciated whole, fresh organic foods. Although they didn’t set out to franchise the business, they quickly saw the demand. “People constantly approached us to see if franchises were available,” Landon says.
When they started awarding franchises in 2017, they earned the distinction as the first franchise to establish a USDA-Certified Organic product. While any brand can claim to be organic, the couple points out that their USDA certification sets Clean Juice apart. “Everything we serve meets USDA standards. This creates trust and transparency with our customers,” Landon says.
The brand has grown to 120 open stores with 80 more in development. But it’s not all about the numbers for the Eckles. They want the right people to help grow the brand. “Franchisees should be involved in the business. This is not a passive investment,” says Kat.
The couple says many of their franchisees are single-unit operators, but they also have a number of multi-unit owners. “A passion for the brand and the products has to be there,” says Kat. “Many of our multi-unit owners are gym owners, too, and have a commitment to wellness.”
The company’s core values of healthy, clean living became more public with the addition of brand ambassador Tim Tebow in July 2021. The couple chose Tebow for his “natural authenticity, reputation and unwavering faith. He is aligned with our personal and professional values,” says Landon.
A Return to Tradition
Landon and Kat refer to the movement to better eating as a return to tradition. “Eating healthy, fresh food is not a trend. It’s the way we should eat and it’s the way our grandparents ate. They didn’t eat processed food, or food sprayed with chemicals,” says Kat.
Since the pandemic, the founders have seen an even greater appreciation for their offerings from customers of all ages, including a growing fan base of Gen-Zers who love to take pictures of Clean Juice’s menu items and post them on social media. In fact, Clean Juice hasn’t been impacted by the current worker shortage like other fast-food restaurants because of its popularity with this younger generation. “Gen-Zers are happy to work at Clean Juice because they want to be aligned with something they believe in,” says Kat.