Smoothie King has built a large and loyal following with its health-conscious, custom-blended smoothies. However, as the brand’s product development manager and resident food scientist Davis Jaeger knows, it’s the taste that turns skeptics into believers.
Jaeger got his start in the food and beverage industry early, working as a busboy when he was just 14.
“I started working at a restaurant in Tampa, [Fla.],” he said. “One day, one of the chefs quit, and the other one told me to come into the kitchen. I started cutting onions and never looked back. I worked my way up from the bottom of the restaurant world for 11 years.”
While he enjoyed the lifestyle at first, Jaeger eventually grew tired of the long and irregular hours that come with a career in the restaurant business.
“I decided to go back to school and join the culinary science program at Clemson University,” Jaeger said. He studied the science behind food, gaining a chemistry minor in the process.
After graduating and working in the corporate food world for a bit, Jaeger found his home at Smoothie King.
“When I started at Smoothie King, the team was excited about my chef background,” he said. “But having the food science background, I am able to take it to another level and I’ve got everyone just as excited about the science of it all.”
While he opted for the white chef coat over the white lab coat, there’s no doubt Jaeger has transformed Smoothie King’s product development process into a scientific system.
“I felt the need for a formalized product innovation and development process,” he said. “This process starts with ideas for smoothies that meet a specific purpose, like losing weight or gaining strength, then we create a great tasting product with a specific blend of nutrients.”
“Once we have that purpose, I come in and work on it,” Jaeger continued. “We strive for a gold standard in taste with every smoothie created. Once we have something we’re happy with internally, we go through a series of consumer feedback exercises to ensure the smoothie we’re releasing will be a hit. And we’ve seen that process reap rewards with the more than 15 new smoothies we’ve introduced 2014, all of which have made it into the top 10 of our product mix.”
Once Jaeger and the team have enough data, they’ll decide if the product will make it on to the Smoothie King menu.
“It’s pretty challenging – we want to make everything healthy, but not at the expense of taste,” Jaeger said. “People try Smoothie King because of their purpose, but ultimately, they’ll come back because of taste. It’s our goal to dispel the thought that bad taste and health go hand in hand. The key is finding a balance.”
It may be difficult, but Jaeger’s hard work has certainly paid off – just ask any of Smoothie King’s loyal guests.
“My sole purpose here at the company is to drive innovation and productivity,” Jaeger said. “Beyond coming up with new flavors, I’m working on cost-saving initiatives and streamlining processes for franchisees.”
Put simply, every Smoothie King franchisee benefits from the experience, expertise and industry knowledge Jaeger brings to the table as a food scientist. They’re also among the first to try his new flavor creations. There’s a technical term for that in the science community: win-win.