Kris Jenner invests in Health Nut

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A three-unit Los Angeles healthcare concept that has enjoyed the Midas touch of the Kardashian family takes it to the next level with Kris Jenner as equity investor.

HN Holding LLC, parent company of the Health Nut brand, said Tuesday that Jenner has become the first investor in the family business. Terms were not disclosed, and Health Nut CEO Steve Choi declined to characterize the investment.

But he said Jenner brings considerable business acumen — not to mention the Kardashian family’s massive media reach — while Health Nut plans new growth for the fast-casual brand in Los Angeles and beyond. Jenner is the mother of Kim Kardashian, Kourtney Kardashian, Khloe Kardashian, Kylie Jenner, Kendall Jenner and Rob Kardashian.

Choi said the company plans to open about seven more units in the LA area before franchising begins. And Health Nut is exploring licensing partnerships that could include branded products and snacks for grocery stores, airports, or college campuses.

“The customers we sell really care about what they put in their bodies,” Choi said. “That’s why we want our products to be straightforward, simple, healthy and accessible everywhere.”

Choi said Health Nut’s history dates back to 1988, when his parents, with Korean immigrants, bought a small health food store in Calabasas, just outside of Los Angeles, that mainly sold vitamins and frozen foods. The shop had a small deli that sold salads and sandwiches and the shop operated that way for about 20 years.

In 2007, the landlord increased the rent significantly, Choi said. To make up for it, he offered the Choi family a few thousand dollars to redesign and refresh the brand. Choi said his mother beefed up the deli menu, and the restaurant side of the business was beginning to bounce back. Choi, who by that time had graduated from business school, became more involved in the company’s realignment.

But the turning point came in 2015, when a local family named the Kardashians became fans of Health Nut’s salads and started tweeting about it.

As the Kardashian brand grew, her regular visits to the small shop became the backdrop for her reality shows.

“I remember being at church one Sunday when someone said Kim Kardashian had tweeted about Health Nut,” Choi said. “I said, ‘I think that’s a big deal.’ So I called my mom and suggested she add a cashier the next day. On Monday our sales literally doubled overnight.”

But what he thought was a short-term slump turned into sustained sales growth, and Choi quit his job to grow his parents’ business, ditch the vitamins, and focus on food.

The omnivore menu includes various vegan and vegetarian options, but Health Nut serves chicken, tuna, turkey, egg salad, and tofu in salads and sandwiches.

Choi said the average check is between $20 and $25, and off-premises sales have become a growing focus during the pandemic, so future units will be smaller (about 1,600 square feet) with more delivery and pickup, as well as catering Program.

In addition to growing units, Choi sees potential for 35 to 40 retail products, including a line of dressings developed by Choi’s mother, and the company is beginning to court licensing partners.

Choi said his parents have retired and would like to play golf, although they remain engaged. “If you had asked me six years ago where I think I would be in 2022, I would never have said that,” Choi said. “It’s a blessing from the Lord and I couldn’t be more grateful.”

Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected]

Follow her on Twitter: @livetodineout

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