Thursday, January 19, 2012

Cold Temperatures Bringing the Heat to Frozen Yogurt Purveyors

As many of you know, I'm a big fan of frozen yogurt and while I love the stuff, and quite possibly eat too much of it, I've also said Atlanta has too many frozen yogurt stores.  Now, in January, one of, if not the slowest month for frozen yogurt shops, I wanted to provide an overview of (most) of the current offerings
in Atlanta including those that have come and gone along the way.  

Local chains like Yogli Mogli and Yoforia have each grown considerably with each now having out of state locations.  

Yoforia started in the summer of 2007, with their original location in the Perimeter Mall food court, and soon added additional locations in Morningside and another in Alpharetta.  Today they have 11 locations open in Georgia with three more coming soon.  The Alpharetta location did close last year, their only closure I am aware of.  Yoforia also has 8 locations in North Carolina, and is growing its international presence with a handful of locations open and others coming soon in Cyprus, Kuwait and India.  Their location in Perimeter Mall is the only Atlanta location that I'm aware of that still offers yogurt by size rather than by the ounce.   Yoforia's yogurt is among the most expensive self serve options at 49 cents per ounce.  Their reportedly organic yogurt comes from Stoneyfield Farms, a division of Dannon.  

Yogli Mogli started in 2009 with one location at the corner of Abernathy and Roswell Roads in Sandy Springs, and today has 18 locations in Georgia and one in Wheaton, Illinois.  All Yogli Moglis are self serve, and most range in price from 39 to 44 cents per ounce.  Though they don't like to speak about it publicly, I've been told their yogurt comes from Portland, Oregon-based YoCream, also a division of Dannon.

Juicy Green, another local shop, at one point had as many as three locations but all have since closed.  Their original location was in Alpharetta on Old Alabama.  It was followed by another downtown on Broad Street near Georgia State, and later one more  in Virginia-Highland on Highland Avenue. To the best of my knowledge, each location offered yogurt by size rather than by ounce, a rarity among current offerings.

Three on the Tree, a local shop owned by Clay Harper and associates from Fellini's and La Fonda, opened their original location on Roswell and Wieuca Roads in north Buckhead in 2010. This past September  it closed and is now Ringside Franks & Shakes, a new concept from the same owners.  Another satellite location opened inside the Fellini's on LaVista and is still in business.  Having originally opened at a 39 cent price point, their price was upped to 45 cents around the time the LaVista location opened.  Both locations offered self service yogurt with six flavor options.  One thing that made them special was that they hired Chef Julia LeRoy to craft unique flavors and partnered with Atlanta Fresh, a local yogurt producer, to provide exclusive local and organic yogurt. Sadly, LeRoy departed to open the short-lived Leroy's, a fried chicken joint on the westside, and the yogurt suffered.  Atlanta Fresh no longer supplies their yogurt, and instead, the yogurt comes from Russellville, Arkansas-based Honey Hill Farms.

Cowlicks is the latest "me too" concept from Atlanta-based Big Game Brands ( previously known as Raving Brands)  Currently the chain has two locations, one in Vinings and the other in Dunwoody.  Both locations are former Planet Smoothies, originally owned by Raving Brands.  Cowlicks offers a ten different flavors at 45 cents an ounce in a self service environment.  Though they don't publicize it, their yogurt comes from YoCream.

Yogurberry, an international chain, has been open at Terminus since the spring of 2008, and since 2009, has been led by the always cheerful and positive Brian Hah.  Plans were to open an additional location at the Avenue Forsyth in Cumming but those plans have been shelved for now.  Yogurberry has developed a cult following of sorts, but its small location at the logistically challenging Terminus has made business difficult.  While Yogurberry does not have the room to offer self serve yogurt, they did add a second yogurt machine a while back, offering a total of four flavors to better compete with the self serve options where consumers can choose from as many as 16 flavors.  Yogurberry claims to serve a proprietary yogurt, healthier and better than its competitors.  Additionally, Yogurberry offers a number of Asian teas as well as smoothies.  

Encino, California-based Menchie's has 16 locations open with three more in the works.  If memory serves, they entered the market in 2010, and their location in Johns Creek was one of their first here.   In Buckhead, their location in a former Planet Smoothie started out well, reportedly one of the best performing in the chain, but has suffered at the hands of nearby Yogurtland.  Yogurtland is another west coast based chain that is expanding in Atlanta, but at the most economical price, only 33 cents per ounce.  Menchie's, by comparison, charges 44 cents but does offer a frequent buyer card that earns consumers points towards free froyo.  I believe YoCream also provides the yogurt to Menchie's but you won't hear that from them.  

Anaheim, California-based Yogurtland recently opened a second location at The Forum in Norcross, not far from a Menchie's.  It will be interesting to see how the two compete there, given what transpired in Buckhead.  A third location is planned for Peachtree City in the coming months.  

Houston, Texas-based Swirll(s) offers some of the worst yogurt and has some of the least desirable locations of any chain in the metro area. They have a total of three locations ; north Buckhead, TOWN Brookhaven and another in Perimeter Place near Perimeter Mall in Dunwoody.    The yogurt is sold in a self serve setting at 45 cents per ounce. I'm not sure what it is about their yogurt or who makes it, but it has not done well locally and its Yelp reviews reflect that.  

Atlanta-based Planet Smoothie has tinkered with offering yogurt in addition to smoothies at some of its locations.  Typically, like in their original test store at the Peach shopping center on Peachtree Road, they offered eight flavors in a self serve environment in addition to their trademark smoothies.  Originally launched in Atlanta in 1995 by Martin Sprock, (who went on to found Moe's Southwest Grill among other concepts), the chain was spun off by Raving Brands in 2009 to Petrus Brands.  This past December, Petrus Brands sold Planet Smoothie to Franklin, Tennessee-based Tasti D-Lite, a chain of frozen dessert shops that focuses on frozen yogurt.  It's not yet known what will be made of each brand, but expect some dual branding to follow soon.

Birmingham Alabama-based Yogurt Mountain has a single Atlanta area location in Johns Creek, but has hopes of growing their presence.  Like a lot of the newer chains, they offer as many as 16 flavors in a self serve environment.  

Los Angeles-based Pinkberry has three locations in Atlanta, and had planned to open one at Atlantic Station but has since pulled out, to be replaced by Yogli Mogli.  Pinkberry offers a luxury experience and a luxury price, with some menu items as much as $9 or $10 (depending on size and toppings.)  Their product is proprietary and they sell yogurt on a per size basis, rather than self serve.  Most locations feature 8 flavor options. 

Yoreka, another local chain once has locations at the Prado in Sandy Springs and later in Little 5 Points.  In late 2010 the Sandy Springs location closed followed by the closure of Little 5 Points this past January.  Not only did this shop offer the less popular sale by size, but their yogurt was not very good.  

Dallas, Texas-based Red Mango opened a pair of locations in 2010, and was said to be opening additional stores in west midtown, Alpharetta, Johns Creek and Buckhead.  They offer a proprietary yogurt at 45 cents per ounce and also offer a number of other beverages like hot chocolate and smoothies.   Their first location opened on Chamblee-Dunwoody Road in Dunwoody, and was later followed by a location at the intersection of North Decatur and Clairmont Roads in Decatur, not far from Emory's campus.  Another location was announced for the intersection of Collier and Howell Mill roads, but after repeated delays, it's now off the center's website.  The Dunwoody location closed last month and on a recent visit to the Emory location, my guest and I were the only patrons.  Given Yogli Mogli has since opened a location in Emory Village and Yoforia is planning a new location in the upcoming Emory Point project, Red Mango may be the first of the well known national franchises to completely exit the market.  

Your turn to "weigh in"

Is self serve the way to go in the yogurt business or do you prefer the Pinkberry model?
Should yogurt shops diversity like Red Mango and Yogurberry and offer additional items like teas and smoothies or should that be left to the Smoothie Kings of the world?
What is your favorite shop and why?
Please share your thoughts in the comment section below. 

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Jenna S. said...

Holy crap - that's a lot of history and great info on the incredibly yogurt craze of 2008+. I just read through it all and while I knew there were a ton of yogurt shops around town, you really know your facts, Eli. It's interesting that the yogurt supplied to Three on the Tree is no longer local - I remember that being one of your major selling points of that chain early on =) My personal fav is Menschis but I have still yet to try Yogurtland and need to. The bottom line though, is that these places are all the freaking same! And the bigger question (to me) is -- how does this effect other 'old school' yogurt shops like TCBY or ice cream places like Baskin' Robbins and Brewsters?? In Aventura where I'm from, Ben & Jerry's recently closed and I know that Coldstone at Atlantic Station closed and will become a Yogli Mogli. How long do you predict before the yogurt craze is dead, though?? There is no way that all of these places (the ones still in business, that is) have true staying power!

Atlantan99 said...

Hey Jenna,

First off thank you for reading the blog and for the kind words on my work and your comments on this post.

I too wonder about the staying power not only of these newer concepts but of the chains of yesteryear like Freshens and TCBY. Freshens is actually based here in Atlanta and is now focusing on high traffic locations such as airports and college campuses. I remember going to a Freshens near Northlake and also one in Toco Hills when I was a kid, neither are still open.

TCBY has tried to reinvent itself as a self serve FroYo joint in some locations though their local stores off Briarcliff at Loehmann's Plaza and on Roswell Road in Fountain Oaks shopping center continue to offer yogurt "by size."

Neither of these chains has expanded much locally though Freshens does have locations at both Georgia State and Georgia Tech , among others.

I think Baskin-Robbins and Bruster's will each continue to fill a niche; those preferring ice cream over FroYo but I see both further diversifying their offerings hoping to capture a wider range of consumers.

Time will tell who makes it and who doesn't but as I've said, Red Mango and Swirll(s) are most likely to close soon in my eyes.

Thanks again for reading and for the comments!

David said...

You forgot about Yogurt Tap in downtown Decatur! :)

gator32301 said...

I don't think the Yogurtland at the Forum will have that much of an impact on Menchies. Even though they are close by distance, they probably can cater to their own markets - Menchies with those living in the State Bridge area and Yogurtland with those in the Norcross/Peachtree Corners area.

Atlantan99 said...

Hey David,

Yes, I did mistakenly omit Yogurt Tap in Decatur!

Also left off the list ( for no specific reason) were Jujubees, Yogen Fruz Tutti Frutti, Swirlin' Twirlin. YoGo and a handful of other single unit independent operations.

Best of this bunch is The Yogurt Tap though. They offer a house-made product at the economical price of 39 cents.

Thanks for reading and for the comment.

Anonymous said...

TCBY with chocolate sauce or hot fudge.
I'll go to a smoothie or tea store for beverages.
Atlanta need awesome Gelato and Custard shops!

Atlantan99 said...

@Anon RE: Custard & Gelato,

I hear Sheridan's in Tucker is good for frozen custard.

For Gelato, Tre'za in Brookhaven has a great variety as do most Whole Foods including their Ponce and Briarcliff locations.

Thanks for the comments and for reading the blog.

Anonymous said...

You forgot Slimberry, which was a disaster. They had 2 locations in Alpharetta (Haynes Bridge and Old Milton), both of which reeked of cleaning products and never had more than a few flavors. They also didn't know how to deal with a Groupon. Thankfully they have shut down. In this kind of market, if you don't have good product/service, you're gone.

Anonymous said...

I have been to most of the shops listed above and Yogurberry is my favorite. Excellent quality.

Anonymous said...

Take the TASTE TEST. Yogurtland who created this self-serve experience back in 2006 is the only brand that formulates their own flavors. I guarantee you there is not a better tasting, higher quality, CONSISTENT, frozen yogurt experience anywhere in Atlanta. Oh and by the way, the price is at least 20% below the next closest brand. Yogurtland has over 175 stores and growing for a reason. Try it,you will not go anywhere else.

Anonymous said...

So basically i can give Martin money for his crumbling multi-level ponzi scheme...or go to a QT and get the same product for close to 25% cheaper... cowlicks will be the next ______ (enter former raving brands concept).

Atlantan99 said...

@Anon RE : Cowlicks wins for best comment thus far this year!

Anonymous said...

YogunFruz is my absolute favorite - totally different from all the other concepts - they blend your yogurt like a blizzard. YUMMM. too bad there are no in-town locations.

Anonymous said...

Hay I love your article very detailed and informative. I was wondering have you ever visited Five Spot in Snellville or Grayson?

Atlantan99 said...


RE: Five Spot, I have not been, is it good? Do you know which yogurt they use?

Thanks for reading and for the comment!

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