It was the first quick-service restaurant (QSR) to introduce health-conscious smoothies to South Africa and, Kauai has gone on to now sell more than 7 million smoothies annually since its launch in 1995.
Based on the notion that healthy eating is not a trend but the way of the future, Kauai has revolutionised the country’s fast-food landscape with an unwavering focus on making fresh, healthy and natural food accessible.
The opening of Kauai’s 200th South African store at Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront is a significant milestone on its 28-year journey as a trailblazer in the QSR industry.
Success is evident in the numbers, and Kauai now sells more than 20 million healthy meals every year, underscoring its enduring popularity with consumers who want fresh, quick meal options that not just tantalise their tastebuds but fit their healthy lifestyle goals. Today, 80% of Kauai’s menu, which includes more than 100 superfoods, is customisable to be plant-based or protein-rich, keeping pace with how consumers’ dietary preferences are evolving.
Kauai is the largest QSR health brand in South Africa and is also undergoing rapid global expansion in markets such as the United Kingdom, Italy, the Netherlands, Thailand, Namibia, Botswana and soon in Sydney, Australia.
The Kauai brand has become synonymous with a healthy way of life. With consumers globally opting for cleaner, healthier food, Kauai is well-positioned to meet this demand. The brand’s focus on preventative health aligns with evolving consumer preferences, and its partnership with Virgin Active clubs worldwide enhances the overall wellness experience for customers.
Dean Kowarski, global CEO of Virgin Active and Kauai and NU, says: “Opening our 200th Kauai store in South Africa is testament to South Africans seeking healthier food choices. At Kauai, healthy eating is in our DNA: Enjoying fresh, natural, delicious whole foods with plenty of fruit and veggies that support your immune system and improve your overall health is our purpose. We only make fresh, healthy, natural food to order, which is a model unlike any other quick-service chain. We are unique in offering consumers quick, nutritionally dense, clean food with no wasted calories. For millions of consumers, Kauai is more than healthy food, it’s a way of life encompassing nutrition, health and wellness.
“Another key to our success is constant innovation. We’re agile when it comes to turning relevant insights and trends – whether they are related to food, digital or the QSR industry – into Kauai innovations that keep building our brand and helping consumers maintain their wellness when they are on the go.”
A unique workplace culture
Kauai operates with a small, disciplined head office team that values professionalism, efficiency and an entrepreneurial mindset while focusing on innovation and agility. Kauai’s chief operations officer Geli Briolas says, “Opening our 200th store in Cape Town’s flagship shopping destination is a proud moment for us at Kauai, which goes together with our excitement at now having teams in the UK, Italy and Australia ready for rapid expansion. Fostering a global workplace culture that is focused on staff development and wellness, and creating new jobs, are some of the most rewarding aspects of what we do. With more than 2 000 employees across our corporate and franchised stores, seeing our crew grow within themselves and the business is truly humbling.”
Sustainability milestones reflect a commitment to a better future
Looking back, Kauai highlights key milestones in sustainability such as pioneering the offering of free-range eggs and chicken, and grass-fed whey protein in the QSR market. Kowarski says, “Being a sustainable brand is important to us, and together with Virgin Active Global we have a clear ESG [environmental, social and governance] strategy in place with science-based targets that are measured annually. This journey continues with 0% food waste in our strategy as well as an elimination of single-use plastics in our production process. We are also working with our suppliers to ensure all our takeaway packaging is made from recycled or compostable materials.”
Kauai acknowledges the role of technology in shaping the future of QSRs. “Technology is changing the way we communicate with our customers and potential customers in the QSR environment,” says Kowarski. “Globally, consumers are tech-savvy and expect the same from their favourite brands; if you are not accessible digitally, you are not part of their world and have no relevance. We have invested significantly in our digital platforms to provide our customers with an enhanced brand experience – ordering ahead, rewarding with cash back, surprising our customers with subscriptions, tiered benefits and gamification are just some of the experiences on our app, ensuring we can keep growing brand value to our consumers.”
As Kauai celebrates the opening of its 200th South African store, the brand remains committed to its founding principles of providing fresh, healthy and natural food, with an eye on continued innovation and sustainability. It’s a journey that reflects Kauai’s resilience, adaptability and steadfast commitment to changing lives for the better through wellness.