Business chills on frozen yogurt

Yogurt toppings at Chilly Billy’s include puppy chow, gummy worms and marshmallows.

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Frozen yogurt is a growing trend across the United States, especially in college towns, but how does it compare to ice cream? Frozen yogurt revenue is expected to grow at a rate of 28.10% from 2014 to 2019 according to Technavio. According to Yelp, there is one ice cream and three frozen yogurt shops within one mile of the University of Minnesota’s East Bank campus.

Yogurt Lab, near the intersection of Washington Ave SE and Union Street SE, opened in 2011. They are beginning to sell salads in stores through their Agra Culture Market brand.
Yogurt Lab, near the intersection of Washington Ave SE and Union Street SE, opened in 2011. They are beginning to sell salads in stores through their Agra Culture Market brand.
Yogurt Lab’s periodic table of flavors displays yogurt flavors, including Xx, a mystery flavor.
Yogurt Lab’s periodic table of flavors displays yogurt flavors, including Xx, a mystery flavor.
Yogurt Lab has many frozen yogurt toppings, including granola, espresso beans, and peanut M&M’s.
Yogurt Lab has many frozen yogurt toppings, including granola, espresso beans, and peanut M&M’s.
Yogurt Lab serves 16 different flavors of yogurt at a time. Shop decorations include a chalkboard with formulas, continuing its chemistry lab theme.
Yogurt Lab serves 16 different flavors of yogurt at a time. Shop decorations include a chalkboard with formulas, continuing its chemistry lab theme.

Yogurt Lab

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Yogurt Lab was the highest rated of all the stores, getting 4.5 stars on Yelp; however, the store was emptier than expected for an 80 degree, sunny Wednesday afternoon. Yogurt Lab kept with a trendy restaurant turned chemistry classroom theme with a “periodic table of flavors” and a chalkboard wallpaper with chemistry equations.

The chain began in Minneapolis and currently has 12 locations around the United States, but growth has begun to slow. It opened its first location in late 2011 and a second location in 2012. Growth took off in 2013 when they opened seven locations; however, Yogurt Lab only opened two locations in 2014 and one in early 2015.

“I think frozen yogurt is more of a dying trend than anything else,” said Yena Lee, a college student who is working at Yogurt Lab for the summer. “It’s still popular as an alternative to ice cream, but Minneapolis hasn’t completely caught up with it. Acai bowls and juicing is more of a trend than frozen yogurt. But, we still do well here.”

 

Chilly Billy’s customers order frozen yogurt the afternoon of Wednesday, August 5, 2015.
Chilly Billy’s customers order frozen yogurt the afternoon of Wednesday, August 5, 2015.
Yogurt toppings at Chilly Billy’s include puppy chow, gummy worms and marshmallows.
Yogurt toppings at Chilly Billy’s include puppy chow, gummy worms and marshmallows.
The interior of Chilly Billy’s, located in Dinkytown, is decorated with large fruit pictures and brightly colored pink tables.
The interior of Chilly Billy’s, located in Dinkytown, is decorated with large fruit pictures and brightly colored pink tables.

Chilly Billy’s

Chilly Billy’s yogurt, at 51 cents per ounce, was four cents cheaper than Yogurt Lab and had a better rating on Foursquare, but it was much smaller and had fewer customers. It had an eye-catching, bright orange and pink color scheme. Opening its first location in Dinkytown in 2011, it expanded to another location in 2014. It advertises being healthy and distinguishes itself by being locally owned.

Though one employee was optimistic about frozen yogurt as a growing trend, owner Bill Marker was not.

“I am afraid it’s not on the rise anymore,” said Marker. “I think frozen yogurt sold in grocery stores is on the rise, but we [haven’t seen] an increase in sales in our store in the last couple of years.”

 

Dairy Queen is located in Stadium Village near the intersection of Washington Ave SE and Oak Street SE on the campus of the University of Minnesota.
Dairy Queen is located in Stadium Village near the intersection of Washington Ave SE and Oak Street SE on the campus of the University of Minnesota.
Customers wait for their orders at a busy Dairy Queen the afternoon of Wednesday, August 5, 2015.
Customers wait for their orders at a busy Dairy Queen the afternoon of Wednesday, August 5, 2015.

Dairy Queen

Dairy Queen, located on the same street as Yogurt Lab, had a long line that reached the door. But unlike other stores, Dairy Queen didn’t sell frozen yogurt or advertise having healthy or natural ingredients. It was also cheaper than the yogurt shops and drew in more customers, many who ordered fries, hamburgers, or hot dogs with their ice cream.

Overall, frozen yogurt shops branded themselves as healthy and natural, while ice cream stores emphasized bringing delicious, easily accessible food. The common perception of frozen yogurt among consumers was that it was healthier than ice cream, but despite this, Dairy Queen’s business still thrives, surpassing its frozen yogurt relatives.

Yogurt and ice cream sales slow after August, but restaurants, such as Dairy Queen do not lose as much business because they offer other menu items. Yogurt Lab pushes to include lunch items on their menu, while Chilly Billy’s serves coffee, cappuccinos, and hot chocolate.

Freshii, hidden in the University of Minnesota’s Wangensteen Building, caters primarily to college students. Labeling itself as healthy fast food, it sells everything, from Kimchi Bowls to juice to frozen yogurt.

Many stores promote business by offering punch cards, coupons or hourly specials to increase business.