Friday, July 24, 2009
Frozen yogurt staging takeover of Dallas
And you thought we had lots of Starbucks.
It isn't that the frozen-yogurt craze hasn't already hit Dallas -- it's that the frozen-yogurt craze is about to hit Dallas hard.
Independent places started opening here as early as spring '08. But this fall, the two big players both make their local debut: Pinkberry and Red Mango (which also moved its U.S. headquarters here). Other yogurterias "coming soon" include Menchies, Fresh Berry, and Yogurt By Me.
This is in addition to the already-open Orange Cup, Natsumi, Berry Berry, Pure Bliss, Yogilicious, Yogurtland, Yogurtville, Yogen Fruz, I Heart Yogurt, Yogurt Patch, Yogurt Story, and Yogurt Walki; most of these plan to open additional outlets, and some already have.
Some may recall the frozen yogurt craze of the late '80s, during which Dallas played a major role as headquarters of I Can't Believe It's Yogurt. Then as now, frozen yogurt was seen as "healthy," thanks to yogurt's mysteriously good-for-you properties. This time around, the language is more specific, with companies boasting the presence of "live & active cultures" -- a discreet label for bacteria that help regulate your digestive system, which itself is a discreet way of saying it helps you poop.
Supplemental benefits include 1. calcium and 2. relative low fat: as low as 90 calories per cup compared to 200+ calories for regular ice cream. That assumes you only get a cup, which is easier to do at Natsumi, Orange Cup, Berry Berry, or Yogen Fruz, where employees dole it out.
However, the increasingly popular frozen-yogurt experience is self-serve. That includes Yogilicious, Yogurtland, Yogurtville, I Heart Yogurt, Yogurt Patch, Yogurt Story, and Yogurt Walki, where you serve yourself yogurt and toppings from a salad bar of cereals, fruit, and candy. You pay for exactly what you get, but generous-sized cups and numerous flavors make it awfully easy to walk away with a pound of yogurt.
Despite the slightly different names, these places seem identical. All have bright, modern decor with plastic furniture and ceramic bathroom tile in neon pastels. All have the same flavors and toppings. Few reveal where their yogurt comes from but most get it from YoCream, a Portland-based company that's been around since the '70s and has successfully revived itself as a primary supplier.
YoCream is also reluctant to name names, acknowledges spokeswoman Suzanne Gardner.
"The main reason we don't do that is because not all of our customers want to be listed," she says. "On top of that, it would be a shopping list for our competition."
But she does share statistics: YoCream's sales are up approximately 175% in the state of Texas for the past 12 months vs prior 12 months.
Other manufacturers include PreGel, better known for its gelato line, and Cielo, both from Italy; Nestle has also recently joined the fray.
Store owners are starting to talk about how they've become meeting points for their neighborhoods and how they reflect their customers in their selection of flavors and aesthetic decisions such as music, furniture, and choice of utensil. Price also varies.