The Cool Rise of Frozen Yogurt

Hey bro, you wanna grab some froyo? I’m kinda feeling some froyo right now.”

Photo Credits to Quinn Donohue' 16

Customers can choose a variety of toppings for their self-served frozen yogurt
photo by Quinn Donohue

Frozen yogurt! It’s everyone’s favorite free-period treat. And why not? It’s cheap, you can find it a short walk from school, it comes in almost every flavor you can dream of and it’s downright tasty. Frozen yogurt has taken Lick-Wilmerding High School, the country and the world by storm with its cool, refreshing taste. You can’t walk down a street in San Francisco without passing a frozen yogurt vendor. Yogurtland, Nubi, Yoppi, Loving Cup, Tuttimelon, Pinkberry and Easy Breezy, among others, provide yogurt-goers with an easy, self-serve approach to frozen yogurt.

Where did frozen yogurt originate and what has made it so popular recently?

The truth is, frozen yogurt has been around for quite some time. Frozen yogurt was first nationally distributed in 1977 by H.P. Hood, Inc. under the name “Frogurt Frozen Yogurt.”

Edward Gelsthorpe, former president of H.P. Hood and the originator of the frozen yogurt movement, projected the annual retail market value of frozen yogurt to be in the range of $18 million to $20 million, but added that the potential is “absolutely huge” in The New York Times. Little did he know how “huge” it could become. In 2011, the frozen yogurt sector was worth $279 million. Today, the sector is worth a whopping $486 million, a 74% increase from 2011 and $466x million more than Gelsthorpe predicted.

However, while Frogurt Frozen Yogurt was fairly successful in the northeastern U.S. where H.P. Hood is located, it failed to spread across the country. It was only when This Can’t Be Yogurt, now called The Country’s Best Yogurt, opened its first frozen yogurt store in 1981 in Little Rock, Arkansas that it gained popularity country-wide. By 1984, TCBY had expanded to 100 stores.

This “cool” treat was hotter than ever during the ’80s, as Americans saw frozen yogurt as a hip, new and healthy alternative to ice cream.

However, like most American cultural fads, frozen yogurt lost popularity soon after. TCBY was forced to close two-thirds of their stores and the frozen yogurt industry stalled. It would not stay that way for long.

In the early 2000s, frozen yogurt reappeared with an outburst of new frozen yogurt dispensaries. The revolutionary concept responsible for the revival of frozen yogurt popularity? Customers serve themselves, add their own toppings and then pay by the ounce. It’s an incredibly efficient method that customers are eating up all over the world. Yogurtland, the retailer closest to LWHS, has 250 stores across the U.S. and also has stores in Australia, Guam, Mexico and Venezuela. More than 100 additional Yogurtland locations are scheduled to open over the next six months. Competitor Pinkberry has locations in 27 states and 19 countries.

The recent drive for frozen yogurt has been fueled by a health craze much like that of the 1980s. Customers today are more wary of their health and see frozen yogurt as a sweet, organic supplement to their overall healthy diet. In fact, measuring by calorie per ounce, frozen yogurt is healthier than ice cream.

“While ice cream remains the largest segment of the ice cream and frozen novelties market, sales dipped following the economic downturn. The expanding array of snack options, as well as a lack of product innovation, contributed to this performance,” said spokeswoman Beth Bloom in a press release for Mintel, a privately owned, London-based market research firm. “In contrast, the frozen yogurt segment has benefitted from a perfect storm of factors, including the growing popularity of yogurt among U.S. consumers, the growing acceptance of frozen yogurt as a snack, and a perception of a higher health profile that coincides with increased attention placed on better-for-you products.”

However, the question remains: is frozen yogurt here to stay?

Rebecca McGuire, the founder of Yog, a frozen yogurt chain which now has 12 stores in the U.K., thinks frozen yogurt is more than just a fad.

“[The] key to our success is the provenance, originality and quality of the product,” McGuire told CNBC. “It’s fat free or low in fat. It’s very low in sugar. We have no artificial ingredients in the product.”

However, some believe that this hot trend will cool fast.

Matthew Wallace, co-owner of BerryLine, a former frozen yogurt company in the New England area, told the Boston Globe that his company never did much more than break-even business.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if you see a big peak in the frozen yogurt market here in the next year or two,” Wallace says. “There are going to be a bunch of closures.”

Ultimately, only time will tell whether this tasty treat can adapt to ever-changing consumer interests. So for now, ride the frozen yogurt wave; it might break before you know it.

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About Franklin Lewis

Frankie is a senior at Lick-Wilmerding High School. He lives in San Francisco with both his parents in North Beach. Frankie runs cross-country and plays baseball for Lick. He wrote and edited his elementary/middle school paper from 5th to 8th grade. This is his second year on the Paper Tiger staff. Frankie manages the sports section in the Paper Tiger.

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