I remember Jamba Juice from when I used to go to school in San Francisco back in the 90s. It was very popular right away with the early adopters, college kids and health/organic-obsessed denizens (the Granola Guerilla I called them) of the Bay Area; I’m going to guess because its colorfully irreverent identity – the word Jamba itself is based on the vaguely celebratory word Jama, common in many West African languages — and the heavily touted purity of its ingredients. Hey, it worked for Ben & Jerry’s. The company – originally named Juice Club — was created by 3 students at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, a sleepy (read ‘total stoner’) town halfway between San Francisco and LA, a town most famous perhaps for being the birthplace of interplanetary heartthrob Zac Efron and the one-time home of Jack Kerouac (While his seminal novel ‘On the Road’ is often cited as the quintessential American road trip story, most people don’t know he was 100% Québecois! The ‘Jack’ throws everyone off. His real name was ‘Jean-Louis’).
Now a New York Stock Exchange listed, 742 location, 9000+ employee corporation with revenues in the hundreds of millions of dollars, Jamba Juice is probably the leading brand in the quick-serve fruit and vegetable market, but a brand that has seen its position as a dynamic modern consumer preferred option decline significantly in the past few years. This situation, untenable for a publicly traded company of course, has led the company to introduce a whole portfolio of new product offerings, notably non-juice/smoothie solid food(!) offerings, in an ongoing effort to substantiate its desired position as a healthy, anytime, wholesome, fun destination experience for the entire family.
There are a handful of locations in New York (21 to be exact, the very first one — which made its bow in February of 2004 — located under the escalators inside the always jam-packed Whole Foods at Columbus Circle) and considering the fact that I have not patronized a Jamba Juice in multiple years, I decided to spend a week diligently going to one, in order to see for myself just what this expanded version of Jamba Juice was all about.
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