More than 25 years in the Sydney produce market scene has set Top Juice Founder Ali Sawan in good stead. Not just for the close relationships that he’s built with farmers and wholesalers, but it’s also given him a healthy respect for quality, seasonal produce. Ali opened a boutique green grocery in the early 90s in Sydney’s affluent suburb of Double Bay. The business has always been family owned; however, after the success of the first juice bar in 2008, the question of franchising arose and a seed was sown.

General Manager Barry Barber has seen this seed bear fruit, particularly in the past few years. “In that time, we have grown to 48 stores in the portfolio,” he says, “and three-quarters of them are franchised. We first dipped our toe into the pool about four years ago, taking on just one single franchisee, and over the last three years we’ve been actively franchising. We worked through the model to make sure it would work from a franchising perspective, and from there we actively engaged in that strategy. That’s been a large factor in the growth of the business.”

“Importantly, though, we are not franchising for franchising’s sake—we still very much see ourselves as a retailer. We want to have a healthy juice bar and food concept that is very customer focused and a great retail operation. Franchising is a part of that and a part of how we deliver that strategy. If we were to define ourselves as a retailer or a franchisor, we are definitely a retailer.”

It’s important to the business to be seen as a high-quality retailer of fresh juices and healthy food options, and Barry says it is this point that differentiates Top Juice from its competitors in the shopping centre arena, such as Boost and Sumo Salad. “The healthy fast-food sector is the growing sector for food, and it’s certainly apparent in the busy food courts of shopping centres,” Barry says. “We have been able to capitalise on that, and the demand for our products has grown. We have been able to coexist with the other players quite well without treading on each other’s toes to a great extent. We are mindful of where we sit in the marketplace, and what our customers come to us for is an authentic product offer, made from fresh produce and natural ingredients.”