FroYo Goes Solo
The old-fashioned ice-cream social gets updated
By Cathryn J. Prince
In what might seem a tasty tribute to the 1980s, the resurgence of frozen yogurt is a delicious departure from ice cream. Fans say it combines the mouth feel of soft-serve ice cream with a healthy accent. “It’s the perfect balance of tart and sweet. It has that distinctive yogurt tang to it,” says Peter Casey, Pinkberry’s regional director for East Coast operations. Pinkberry first opened in Los Angeles in 2005. Since then, the chain has gone global, recently opening a store in Fairfield.
Frozen yogurt can also be found at 16 Handles in Fairfield and Swizzles in Ridgefield and Wilton, and Deborah Ann’s in Ridgefield. For those living in Bedford, Treat Frozen Yogurt in Cross River offers a rainbow of flavors including banana and cheesecake. The family-owned business also offers low-fat and sugar-free yogurt.
Local franchises tout the live action cultures, or “good bacteria” found in frozen yogurt. They also like people to know that the yogurt is non- or low-fat, and rBST hormone-free. “This is what people are looking for,” says Lauren Menache, of 16 Handles. “They want to curb their desire for something sweet. They want something that’s not going to pack on the pounds. With 16 Handles, you’re controlling the portion, you’re controlling the toppings.”
If control is the key word, stores with the self-serve option say it means portion control, as customers tend to buy larger portions when they serve themselves. If one loads a cupful of plain, non- or low-fat yogurt with M&Ms and gummy bears, well, that’s the dessert equivalent of having a Diet Coke with a Big Mac, concedes Menache.
And so, most franchises are careful not to brand themselves as a health food. “Yes, it’s a healthier alternative to other frozen treats,” Pinkberry’s Casey says. “But that’s not the message we put out.”
While Pinkberry isn’t self-serve, Swizzle and 16 Handles are—a trend that both vendor and customer like because self-serve shops require fewer employees and provide a dash of entertainment. “It’s fun,” says Swizzles founder Adam Kessner. “Consumers get to control the machine and the portion size..”
Customers also aren’t shy about making flavor suggestions. At Swizzles, Alpine Vanilla and Cake Batter are favored; but for frozen yogurt aficionados, Original is the sacred cow. “When I tried to change out Original, I got such a backlash,” Kessner says. ›
“I put it back immediately.” In all stores, chocolate is a constant. After that, each brand offers a variety—from red velvet and blueberry to dragon fruit.
Of course ice-cream shops like to play this game. After all, if Jack wants cookies ’n’ cream and Jill a chocolate froyo, they live happily ever after at a place like Deborah Ann’s in Ridgefield, which offers both.
While today’s frozen yogurt shops are slightly retro, one aspect of the trend is decidedly modern—customers follow them on Facebook and Twitter. Soft serve has gone social.