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Fro-Yo Overload!

As summer brings sweltering  heat coast to coast, Americans are beginning to abandon traditional relief from sweet treats in ice cream parlors and popsicle stands in favor of an explosive new trend; frozen yogurt shops. These dairy-slinging stores are in the business of selling happiness, and feature diverse flavors and toppings for consumers to customize and enjoy. Frozen yogurt capitalizes on the overarching trend of ‘healthiness,’ offering a lighter option with probiotic properties; a delicious delight without the associated guilt.

A myriad of new brands have sprouted up in the past year, latching on to the fad and serving their tasty concoctions to the masses. Given the relatively niche market that these franchises would seem to fit, they are outrageously popular – there are now at least 17 unique chain or standalone frozen yogurt brands with nearly identical business models within the metro Atlanta area alone.

The industry is thriving thanks to real demand (2012 has been the hottest year on record thus far) and a model that fits consumer wants (self service means customers can take just a little or indulge heavily at a reasonable price). As a result, there are countless “fro-yo” fanatics who develop deep devotions to a favorite location, spending hard-earned cash for a well deserved treat as often as every day. With much of the product itself being relatively similar across the board, how does one generate this kind of loyalty and compete in a marketplace so oversaturated?

In the month of June, Junction designed an experiment to evaluate several rising yogurt chains. We took up the very demanding task of tasting our way through the various frozen yogurt experiences that Atlanta has to offer. We examined the selection and quality of the yogurt itself and available toppings, the design and branding of the stores, and the overall experience factoring in customer service, price point, and convenience of the locations. With temperatures soaring above 100 degrees, it all tasted good, but we encountered several unique brands that offered fantastic experiences and a handful that left us a little cold. Here are the results:

The standouts:

Yogli Mogli (25 locations) – An Atlanta-based chain offering great flavor selections, friendly customer service, colorfully designed and well-kept stores, and a consistent brand experience, all at a lower price point than the competition.

Cowlicks (2 locations) – A smaller franchise with outstanding customer service, a brand that is clever and on-point (Cows, get it?), numerous discounts and promotions, and the unique addition of a soda fountain for customers to create frozen yogurt floats.

Menchie’s (190 locations) – Impressively branded, with interesting ‘guess-the-flavor’ and other promotions and discounts as well as the single largest selection of flavors and toppings. Also features plenty of merchandising, and a distinctive spoon that doubles as a great takeaway.

The less impressive:

Yoforia (21 locations) – Also based in Atlanta, had a ‘trendy’ brand that was uneven across store design and experience. Despite offering Stonyfield Farm Organic yogurt, selection was more limited and taste fell short. Little to no interaction with employees makes for a less friendly atmosphere.

The Yogurt Tap (1 location) – A freestanding operation with a neighborhood feel and great tasting product, but lacking any uniform brand at all. Without distinct emotional touch points, the experience falls noticeably short of other shops.

After visiting dozens of locations, it became evident that strong and uniform branding, attentive service, and consistency were crucial factors in separating the outstanding shops from the field. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the franchises that managed to create the most memorable experiences earned the attention and likely the future business of our testers.

Quality and constancy in branding are key components in building any successful business, and as frozen yogurt mania continues to build, the brands that best manage to connect with their customers are primed to outlast those that miss the mark. Have you declared an allegiance to your favorite frozen yogurt shop?

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