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How Freshii is riding the health food boom and finding inspiration from fast fashion to fuel its rapid expansion

Freshii founder Matthew Corrin. Freshii reaped benefits from being ahead of the healthy fast-food trend, doubling its global restaurant count last year to more than 200 franchised units, with plans to almost double in size again in 2016.

TORONTO — Freshii founder Matthew Corrin hasn’t heard back from McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook since the former’s cheeky proposal last year suggesting the two go into business together. But clearly the home of the Big Mac has been influenced in recent years by Freshii’s style of fast food: healthy, convenient and nutrient-dense.

Freshii founder’s plan to build a billion-dollar brand — and change the world

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There are two things you need to change the world: Simple objectives, and the will to achieve them. So don’t bet against new-age restaurant czar Matthew Corrin, because he has both. And he already does 100 chin-ups a day.

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Toronto-based Freshii Inc., which marks its 11th anniversary this month, has reaped benefits from being ahead of the healthy fast-food trend, doubling its global restaurant count last year to more than 200 franchised units, with plans to almost double in size again in 2016.

“I haven’t heard directly from Steve, but I know that he is aware of what we are up to,” Corrin said of his open letter in May to the McDonald’s Corp. CEO in which he suggested putting a co-branded Freshii store inside a McDonald’s outlet. Corrin vowed the move would boost same-store sales at a McDonald’s location by 30 per cent and annual profits by US$250,000, his bid to prove that “for the benefit of all” fast food and fresh food could coexist.

The ensuing publicity paid off for Freshii, even as McDonald’s and Starbucks further diversified their menus to add more healthy items.
Still, Corrin isn’t worried about traditional junk food purveyors homing in on his turf by adding smoothies, oatmeal, salad bowls and even kale to their menus.

The more of us that can bring health and wellness to the masses, the more that will have a positive impact on society

The company will operate in 20 countries by the end of the first quarter, and is on a growth tear, opening three to six restaurants per week to add to its current count of 215. At existing Freshii outlets, business is flourishing, with high single-digit same-store sales for the past 14 quarters, including an 8.83 per cent rise in same-store sales in the fourth quarter.

“The more of us that can bring health and wellness to the masses, the more that will have a positive impact on society,” Corrin, 34, said in a recent interview. “Healthy food is about helping people live longer, at its core. When you see the giants doing it, it’s great. They are giving people access to healthier food at a more affordable, more convenient price setting, which is why I wrote to Steve in the first place.”

A survey last year from the Toronto market research firm BrandSpark International found that 84 per cent of Canadians said good food and nutrition can help them prevent illness, while 77 per cent said they were concerned about their personal health. Forty-nine per cent said they did not believe there are enough convenient and healthy options available for consumers at retail stores.

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