Focus on: Frozen Yogurt

Frozen yogurt is hot: There are countless smoothie shops, QSRs and casual restaurants that menu the cool, creamy stuff. But the product leading the charge isn’t the ice cream imitator popularized by chains like TCBY in the ’80s. That sweet soft-serve with a slightly tangy edge is still available, but concepts like Menchie’s, Yogurtland, Red Mango and Pinkberry are focusing on tart frozen yogurt with health-promoting probiotics and live cultures.

“The tart frozen yogurt category has grown 14 percent in sales volume and is expected to grow 80 percent by 2012,” reports Daniela Province, associate brand manager for Dreyer’s Foodservice, which markets frozen yogurt under the Dreyer’s and Edy’s brands. “Tart yogurt has a cleaner, more lemony finish and a healthier appeal. It’s suitable for breakfast or lunch—not just snacking or dessert,” she adds.

Although the biggest customers are frozen yogurt chains, segments on the rise include airports, amusement parks, corporate and college locations and casual dining concepts like Souplantation & Sweet Tomatoes.

In addition to tart, Dreyer’s also offers regular nonfat and lowfat frozen yogurts and a custom flavor system that can be applied to all three yogurt bases. The system offers
26 flavors in shelf-stable 32-ounce containers, including unique and seasonal flavors such as apple, pear, honeydew, acai berry and pomegranate. “We had lots of feedback from customers saying that they wanted more fruit flavors,” says Province. “Chocolate and vanilla are still dominant, but fruits like strawberry, mango and blueberry work especially well with the tart format.”

When evaluating a soft-serve frozen yogurt, there are certain characteristics that determine quality. “The product should have a good balance of sweet and tangy flavors, a fair amount of stiffness so it can be dispensed through a machine, and a smooth, rich and creamy texture. An icy, watery mouthfeel is undesirable,” says Chris Bolt, brand manager for Dreyer’s Foodservice. Should you opt for traditional nonfat or lowfat yogurt or the tart variety? “Consider your end user,” Bolt advises. “Some customers just care about the ‘treat’ value of frozen yogurt, while others care about the ‘better for you’ aspects of live, active cultures in the tart varieties.”

While frozen yogurt concepts are equipped with multiple dispensing machines, an increasing number of which are self serve, operations without machines can also sell frozen yogurt in scoops or single-serve containers. Blue Bunny, for example, offers a line of “Personals” all-natural frozen yogurt in flavors like white chocolate raspberry, bordeaux cherry chocolate and caramel praline crunch—convenient to sell for a grab-and-go snack or dessert.