Friday, July 11, 2008

Yogurt Wars - Several Frozen Yogurt Eateries Set Up Shop

Frozen Yogurt Wars - Several Frozen Yogurt Eateries Set Up Shop

The Tart Frozen yogurt craze is now in full swing in the Washington area after making its way from the west coast. With the opening of Tangysweet on P street and Sweetgreen in Georgetown. The local restaurants are now battling it out for DC's frozen yogurt fans. With Pinkberry and Red Mango already battling it out on the west coast for their share of the $4.1 billion frozen treat market. Yes that's B for billion, DC was bound to be one the their prime expansion markets.

We had the pleasure of visiting Tangysweet a few weeks ago, and it was brimming with the young 20-30 professional set. Everyone was eager to try and see what all the hype was about. Based on the comments of a few everyone seemed to be enjoying their frozen treat. Our first impression were the place reminded us more of Lotus Lounge than a frozen yogurt. With interior design duties handled by Kube Architecture, this venue should mesh will the surrounding area. With lines rapidly approaching our favorite DC Cafe, you would have thought the yogurt was free. Hardly the case lots of folks have been talking about the price of the yogurt and the wide variety of fruity toppings. Owner Aaron Gordon is very happy about the popularity of the location so far and is even hinting at opening additional locations.

Apparently another new frozen yogurt place named Iceberry is opening in Georgetown. Iceberry already has locations in Reston Town Center, Chantilly and Springfield. The Georgetown location is going to be on the corner of 30th and M.

Next up is Mr. Yogato (1515 17th St., NW), DC's newest tart-style frozen yogurt shop in East Dupont. Is it just me or is that every time I hear this name I think of the 80's jam by STYX - Mr. Roboto, maybe I am just a lil loony.

Also Red Mango which started the trend in South Korea, are actively scouting for locations to open their DC area location according to chief executive Dan Kim.

Another location Sweetgreen is already planning a second location after customers have fallin in love with their frozen yogurt selection.

Here is copy of the latest Washington post article on the craze.

Washingtonians Line Up as Tangy Frozen Yogurt Shops Move In
By Ylan Q. Mui

Washington Post Staff Writer

Wednesday, July 9, 2008; D01

A piece of advice for the uninitiated: The snowy white swirl of "classic" frozen yogurt at Dupont Circle's Tangysweet is anything but vanilla.
Crisp and tart, the taste is closer to lemonade and designed to appeal to a grown-up palate. A line of 20- and 30-somethings snakes out of the door and down the block many nights. After just one month in business, owner Aaron Gordon is already thinking about a second, and maybe even third, location.

"Their first image is 'Wow, this is very tart,' " Gordon said of new customers. "It's almost like introducing the city to a new style of yogurt." Tart frozen yogurt has finally made its way from the West Coast to Washington, and several new businesses are tussling for your taste buds as the summer heat settles in. In addition to Tangysweet, the past year and a half has also brought Sweetgreen, Mr. Yogato and Iceberry to the nation's capital. And Red Mango, the granddaddy of them all, which claims to have popularized the trend in South Korea, is scouting for locations.

Though statistics for restaurants were not available, national retail sales of frozen yogurt grew 3.5 percent, from $171 million in 2005 to $177 million last year, according to market research firm Mintel. Ice cream still dominates, with more than half of the market for frozen treats, but sales in the same period fell 2 percent, to $4.1 billion.

Of course, this isn't frozen yogurt's first swirl around the block. It enjoyed popularity in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when chains such as TCBY and I Can't Believe It's Yogurt offered a sweet, low-fat alternative to ice cream before their appeal began to melt away. Then in 2005, Los Angeles-based Pinkberry introduced U.S. consumers to a tart version of frozen yogurt that bears little similarity to its creamy cousin. The taste has generated long lines and plenty of buzz -- earning Pinkberry yogurt nicknames such as "frozen heroin juice." It now has 45 stores in California and 13 in New York. Rival Red Mango arrived in L.A. last year and has nearly 30 stores in several states."The one thing I know about Americans is we love new versions of the things we already know," said Harry Balzer, vice president of consumer behavior research firm NPD.

The success of the two chains has spawned several imitators, and Gordon is admittedly one of them. His older sister introduced him to Pinkberry while he was living in Santa Monica, Calif., and he found himself returning day after day. A District native and entrepreneur, he decided to bring the concept to his home town.

His basement shop features modern decor, including distinctive color-changing arm rests that Gordon has dubbed "tangy tables." It serves only three flavors -- classic, pomegranate and green tea -- but a wide variety of toppings ranging from kids' cereal Trix to mango.
Gordon said he used his own capital, coupled with a few credit cards, to open the store in early June. A line of about 40 people waited outside when he threw open the doors, Gordon said.
"It really hasn't let up since then," he said. A few blocks away, Steve Davis works his own frozen yogurt shop, named Mr. Yogato, a sly reference to the 1983 song "Mr. Roboto" by the band Styx. The store, which opened late last month, serves up the same type of tart yogurt as Tangysweet but in a decidedly more playful atmosphere. Cartoon berries are painted on the walls, the trash can is shaped like a rocket, and one set of table and chairs is Smurf-blue.

"We're not cool and hip," Davis said. "We are fun and goofy."Actually, Davis is a rocket scientist who is still employed full time with space exploration and technology company Spacex. He moved to the Washington area about a year ago from the company's L.A. office, where he and his buddies would go to Pinkberry for lunch almost every day. Once in the District, Davis and his friends suffered tart yogurt withdrawal and decided to launch their own store.

They pooled their cash and brought on a few more friends and relatives as investors. The hardest part, Davis said, was coming up with the recipe. They cycled through more than 100 batches before hitting what would become "original tangy." The store also sells a traditional, sweet frozen yogurt flavor and has two rotating flavors each week.

Meanwhile, other competitors are ramping up operations. Red Mango chief executive Dan Kim said the chain is "aggressively" seeking locations in Tysons Corner, Reston, Bethesda and Georgetown and hopes to secure its first site in the next month. In Virginia, Iceberry has opened stores in Reston, South Riding, Springfield and Chantilly, with another in Georgetown planned for the end of summer. Sweetgreen, which sells salads and tart yogurt, is planning a second location in Dupont Circle after nearly one year in business in Georgetown.

"Even if it's pouring rain or snowing, people will run in to get their yogurt," said Nicolas Jammet, who founded the store with two friends during his senior year at Georgetown University.
But beware: The buzz can bite back. Pinkberry was hit with a class-action lawsuit last year from customers who claimed that its tart frozen yogurt didn't live up to its name. California law requires yogurt to be made off-site, rather than in stores. Pinkberry now mixes its product in a dairy and settled the suit in April, agreeing to donate $750,000 to charity and list ingredients online.

There are no Food and Drug Administration guidelines dictating the ingredients for frozen yogurt, but plain yogurt is made by culturing milk or cream with the lactic-acid-producing bacteria Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus. The FDA generally defines ice cream as made by freezing pasteurized milk or cream and flavoring it with sweeteners.
American Dietetic Association spokeswoman Katherine Tallmadge, who has indulged in Tangysweet, said that the new tart yogurts are healthier than ice cream, healthier even than most traditional frozen yogurt -- but that doesn't make them health foods. A half-cup of Red Mango's original flavor has 90 calories and contains 260 milligrams of potassium, 15 grams of sugar and three grams of protein. The same serving of skim milk yogurt, however, delivers only 63 calories and nine grams of sugar, and packs 288 mg of potassium and seven grams of protein.
"It's a treat. And I'm not against treats," Tallmadge said of the tart frozen yogurts. But she added: "It's not as good as eating fruit. Nothing is as good as eating fruit or vegetables as your snack."

Despite the current craze, frozen yogurt orders at restaurants are still about one-tenth of what they were during its peak nearly two decades ago, according to Balzer of NPD. And it still has a long way to go before sales even begin to come close to those of ice cream.
One ice cream shop has that has withstood the test of time is Gifford's Ice Cream and Candy, one of Washington's oldest scoopers. It is planning to open its sixth store soon, in Hyattsville. The chain also is also seeking franchisees and hopes to open another 25 locations between Baltimore and Richmond. "We're sort of the anti-trend," said Neal Lieberman, chief executive. "I think they've done a nice job with some of the packaging. It's sort of a unique taste. But we feel like there's plenty of room for us."

Tangysweet - 2029 P St., NW DC

Sweetgreen - 3333 M St NW Washington, DC 20007

Iceberry - 30th and M (Georgetown)

Mr. Yogato - 1515 17th St., NW

Red Mango - Location - TBA