Sunday, January 30, 2011

Frozen Yogurt FAQs

Fro-yo girl here. I'm wrapping up my coverage of the Frozen Yogurt Conference with some random things I learned at the conference.

It's unclear who first started selling fro-yo in the U.S. but it was probably an equipment manufacturer on the East Coast during the 1970s.

The FDA has not approved of any probiotic health claims for food products.

Gritty fro-yo may be a sign that you need to replace your fro-yo machine blades.

Sugar-free fro-yo is sugar added is different. Since fro-yo needs to contain milk and milk has glucose, fro-yo always contains sugar.

Some people think that consumers shy away from green colored fro-yo. It doesn't bother me unless it looks too unnatural.

Most popular fro-yo toppings:
1. Strawberries
2. Reeses peanut butter cups
3. Raspberries
4. Diced almonds
5. Cookie dough pieces
6. Mini gummi bears
7. Oreos
8. Mini M&Ms
9. Cheesecake
10. Heath bar

Mochi was #16...but maybe it's not offered at as many places? Well, mochi is my favorite topping. I liked diced almonds and raspberries. I don't like how the color of the M&Ms comes off and runs into the fro-yo. Ick.

You know you love me. X0 X0, fro-yo girl.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Spotlight on YoCream

Fro-yo girl here. Part II of my Frozen Yogurt Conference coverage is dedicated to the conference host, YoCream. As you may have heard, they were recently acquired by Group Danone, the world's largest yogurt manufacturer.

YoCream's management team remains and they're excited about the growth opportunities ahead. They're building a new fro-yo plant in the Midwest (and keeping the one in Oregon) and will be expanding their international presence significantly. While YoCream is already available in 18 countries, Danone has 150 manufacturing plants worldwide.

Factory Tour
Picture-taking wasn't allowed inside (but you can see pictures of the factory interior on their website) and we had to put on white coats, shoe covers, and hair nets before entering. The tour takes you through multiple rooms and each step is described (mixing & culturing, adding flavors, filling & packing, freezing, a visit to the quality assurance lab, shipping and storage, taste testing with the R&D group). It's noisy on the factory floor and the ground is wet. I initially envisioned that they could build something like the Jelly Belly factory observation deck and make it a tourist destination but I think that might be difficult (not enough space for a platform). I liked stepping inside the giant freezer and feeling surrounded by smelling fro-yo in the air.

Company Store
It does feel like a showroom...only for's so shiny and clean. But it's open to the public. There are 10 flavors of self-serve fro-yo a day, fro-yo toppings, smoothies, waffles, and coffee. I like that they have the store because it helps them understand fro-yo store operations and provides material for YoCream University, the 2 day conference they offer (Fro-yo 101).

YoCream's Website
They're about to add some new features to the operator portal, including the ability to generate your own flavor strips, helpful FAQs (e.g., why is my fro-yo gritty?), and a points system where you can save up points and redeem them for marketing collateral (e.g., flavor of the day signs).

YoCream's passion for and commitment to frozen yogurt are inspirational. I'm excited for them and look forward to following their endeavors.

You know you love me. X0 X0, fro-yo girl here.

Friday, January 28, 2011

New Valentine's Special: Pinkberry Swirly Grams

Fro-yo girl here. This year there's a new way to make the heart of any Pinkberry fan flutter or should I say swirl. Available for ordering now, Pinkberry Swirly Grams let you express your affection, whether it's friendship or love.

If the object of your affection lives close to a Pinkberry store, have the Swirly Gram hand-delivered with a special note, balloons, ribbons and hearts (but it would be hard to surprise someone - you want to make sure that he/she is going to be there to get the fro-yo and/or have a freezer near by). If that isn't the case, send the Swirly Gram gift card. I hope I get one...or a couple...

Here's more info, from the Pinkberry Swirly Gram press release:

Customers can choose from the following packages:
"Cupid's Swirl" -- One medium Pinkberry frozen yogurt with toppings for $10.
"Take Me Home" -- Five servings of Pinkberry packed in a 25 oz. Take Home container with toppings on the side for $20.
"Swirly Spree" -- One Pinkberry gift card for any dollar amount you choose (plus an additional $2 delivery and packaging fee).

Pinkberry Swirly Gram frozen yogurt packages are offered in three flavors: Pinkberry Original, Chocolate, or Blood Orange, each with specially selected Valentine's toppings.

Customers who wish to send a Pinkberry Swirly Gram to loved ones in another city can go online to order the "Swirly Spree" gift card package. See website for complete package and delivery details.

Swirly Grams can be ordered in-store from Jan. 28 to Feb. 10, 2011. Delivery starts on Friday, Feb. 11, 2011 and will run through Valentine's Day. Online Pinkberry Swirly Gram gift card packages can be ordered online from Jan. 28 to Feb. 11, 2011 in order to be shipped and delivered by Valentine's Day. Customers can also pick up a Swirly Gram in stores through Monday, Feb. 14 to personally deliver to their sweetie (while supplies last).

About Pinkberry
Pinkberry reinvented the frozen yogurt category when it launched in West Hollywood, CA, in January 2005. Today with more than 100 stores worldwide, it is the most talked about, best tasting, premium frozen yogurt, made with high-quality fresh ingredients. From store design to exceptional customer service to irresistible flavors and toppings, Pinkberry provides a social experience that indulges the senses. Pinkberry's distinctive flavors are expertly crafted to complement its daily fresh-cut fruit and premium toppings that offer an irresistibly tangy, incomparably clean and refreshing taste. Pinkberry is certified by the National Yogurt Association and carries the Live & Active Cultures Seal. Get a taste of Swirly Goodness by visiting Pinkberry's Website, Facebook or Twitter page.

You know you love me. X0 X0, fro-yo girl here.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Frozen Yogurt Conference Overview

Fro-yo girl here. I've returned from the Frozen Yogurt Conference hosted by YoCream in Portland, Oregon. The host, YoCream, did an amazing job of organizing the conference and taking care of attendees, from the limo service to the free meals. They were incredibly welcoming and kind. Thank you YoCream!

The turnout was impressive...I think around 400 attendees or so from 18 countries. I was excited to see people from fro-yo shops I'd been to or read about. Most of the attendees seemed to already have fro-yo shops but the show was also attended by distributors, aspiring fro-yo shop owners, and others in the fro-yo business. Upon registering, I received a free YoCream logo drawstring bag, program and coupon for YoCream products.

The purpose of the conference was educational and one repeated message was how everyone in fro-yo should be focused on not just their own businesses but on growing the fro-yo industry.

The conference started on Tuesday, Jan. 25, with tours of the YoCream manufacturing plant and company showroom store (the tours were repeated on Wednesday morning). The afternoon was filled with fascinating topics like the History of Frozen Yogurt, marketing tips, what you should know about frozen yogurt machines and more. We were introduced to the YoCream executives including the founder. The keynote speaker was Peter Vidmar, the gymnast and he impressed us with his pommel horse skills and humor.

Wednesday was focused on store operations, including menu planning, a hands on mixology lesson, and more. In addition to having expert speakers discuss topics like pressure vs. gravity fro-yo machines, there were ample Q&A sessions.

In between sessions we wandered around the exhibit area where vendors included the major fro-yo machine manufacturers, printing, fro-yo photography, payment systems, custom signs, store design and more. If you needed anything for your fro-yo business, you probably could have found a vendor at the conference. Since I don't own a store, I tended to hang out at the YoCream new products booth. It was there that you could eat fro-yo (as much as you wanted) and try brand new flavors like Greek Yogurt, Thin Mint, Angel Food Cake and Strawberry Lemonade sorbet before the general public.

I learned and kept learning about fro-yo...will share more about what I learned and saw all this week.

You know you love me. X0 X0, fro-yo girl.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

A New Crop of Yogurt Drinks

Fro-yo girl here. I gave up on Yakult style yogurt drinks months ago (they were too sweet) but I kept seeing new yogurt drinks and I couldn't resist trying a few. I thought these drinks might be different from the Yakult knockoffs.

* YOGUR DE SAVILLA: This line of Korean non-carbonated drinks comes in a variety of flavors including pineapple, peach, plain and mango and is available in two sizes. I tried the mango flavor which contains water, milk, mango puree, and sugar. I was pleasantly surprised by the flavor; it wasn't as sweet as Yakult and it had a milky (but not tangy), lightly sweet flavor with tiny chunks of aloe vera. It doesn't seem to have yogurt, though I thought it did based on the product name. I liked how it was light and refreshing and I liked the aloe vera chunks. 4 out of 5 stars.

* O LATTE: Another non-carbonated Korean drink, the can says it's milky and fruity. I tried the original flavor ($1.09 at Kukje for 8.11 fl. oz). It was very sweet, refreshing and milky, a little tangy but not as strong or tangy as Yakult. I found it drinkable but too sweet. Ingredients include: water, fructose, pear juice, citric acid, maltrodextrin, calcium, skim milk powder, and artificial flavor (yogurt, citrus). 3.5 out of 5 stars.

* JAMBA JUICE fruit & yogurt blends: these new probiotic drinks come in three flavors (vibrant blueberry, strawberries alive, thrivin' mango) and contain yogurt, soy milk, fruit and Jamba's probiotic boost. I tried vibrant blueberry. It's decent - reminds me of a thinner smoothie. The flavor was sour rather than tangy. I liked that it was freshly made but it didn't have enough yogurt flavor for me. The drinks are $3.50 for 12 ozs. and $4.30 for 16 ozs. 3.5 out of 4 stars.

Ironically, the drink I liked the best didn't have yogurt!

You know you love me. X0 X0, fro-yo girl.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Thoughts on Blood Orange Pinkberry

Fro-yo girl here. I tried Blood Orange Pinkberry last night...and really liked it. I was fearful that it would taste like Original with just a hint of blood orange flavor, but the new flavor has quite a strong blood orange flavor. Juicy and bright, Blood Orange is one of the tarter Pinkberry fro-yo flavors.

For toppings I chose:
* Fresh blood orange segments: the fresh blood orange was sour like grapefruit. The sourness of the fresh blood orange brought out the sweetness of the blood orange fro-yo.
* Marcona almonds: I always get these, they just add a nice crunch and mild flavor
* Fresh raspberries: complements most fruit flavors
* Graham crackers: I like graham crackers but didn't like the flavor or texture (brittle, chalky) they added to this fro-yo combination.

I've always wondered why fro-yo shops have been so slow to add tart citrus flavors to their line-up...but that's gradually changing.

You know you love me. X0 X0, fro-yo girl.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Yogo Bar Review

Fro-yo girl here. Tart fro-yo popsicles are hard to come by. I found a Korean brand, Choripdong, of Plain frozen yogurt popiscles called Yogo Bar while shopping at Marina Foods. Each bar contains more than 30,000,000 CFU of lactobacillus. It's made without any artificial colors or flavors though the main ingredient is corn syrup, followed by sugar and water. Each 75 ml popsicle is 135 calories with 5g of fat. A box of 9 bars retailed for $4.59 - not a bad price for 9 popsicles.

* Plain Yogo Bar: quite good, soft (but not too soft) and icy but creamy thanks to the cream and milk. It is quite sweet, but also tangy and has a milky flavor. It has a clean taste. I found it a bit too sweet but still enjoyable.

I wish it came in other flavors. Maybe they exist and I just need to find them.

4 out of 5 stars

You know you love me. X0 X0, fro-yo girl.

* MARINA FOOD: 46100 Warm Springs Blvd, Fremont, CA

Friday, January 14, 2011

Yakult Soful Yogurt Review

Fro-yo girl here. I spotted a new Yakult branded fridge inside Nijiya Market. It contained two flavors of Yakult Soful yogurt (blueberry and strawberry) and Yakult yogurt drinks. It was my first time seeing Soful. Nijiya was selling Soful for 99 cents. The main ingredients are water, skim milk powder, strawberry juice concentrate, gelatin, and agar.

* Strawberry Soful yogurt: smooth, firm and tangy, like a tart strawberry jello with milk added to it. It's interesting and different. I prefer creamier yogurt.

Apparently Yakult Soful has been available in Mexico since 2007. They registered the Soful trademark in the U.S. in 2008. Somehow I never saw Soful till now. It looks like it comes in Lemon and Natural too, and there are drink versions (also called Soful).

3.5 out of 5 stars

You know you love me. X0 X0, fro-yo girl.

* NIJIYA MARKET:1737 Post St #333, San Francisco, CA

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Los Angeles Fro-yo Treasures

Fro-yo girl here. Los Angeles...the capital of fro-yo, fro-yo central, fro-yo land. I like to visit several times a year to immerse myself in SoCal fro-yo. My favorite tart fro-yo shop has closed and other good tart fro-yo places have also closed their doors, but I was still able to find special fro-yo shops. These places excel in...sweet fro-yo and each one stands out in a sea of fro-yo shops.

* 21 CHOICES (locations in Pasadena, USC & Claremont): it's been around for in Pasadena for years and years, before the tart fro-yo explosion and it looks sure to survive the fro-yo meltdown. They make their own unique flavors, soft serve blends with cookies, fruit, candy pieces, and more. You can get the soft serve (6 flavors a day, they change daily) or add mix ins and/or toppings. And the mix ins - wow, they have donuts, cupcakes, cookies, cheesecake, tiramisu - everything. They even use organic ingredients when possible. Super fresh and super good.

* FROST FROZEN YOGURT (1848 Westwood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA): They have as much fro-yo variety as a self-serve shop, 10 flavors a day, and the soft serve sorbet and soft serve gelato flavors are top notch. The fro-yo toppings were really fresh, sampling was encouraged. Tasty all around.

* YOGURT STOP (8803 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood, CA): the fiercest fro-yo shop I've ever been to - filled with attitude. The fro-yo flavors have the best names, like I'm Coming Out Cake Batter, Lezbionic Tonic, and Milk My Harvey Chocolate. And they have plenty of best of fro-yo awards too. The toppings bins are overflowing and the fro-yo tastes great. They also encourage sampling unlike some self-serve fro-yo places. Fun!

You know you love me. X0 X0, fro-yo girl here.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Grey Fro-yo Toppings?

Fro-yo girl here. The other day I wanted to make a fro-yo creation in honor of the Ohio State Buckeyes victory in the BCS Sugar Bowl, so I naturally wanted to find scarlet & grey toppings. Scarlet toppings are easy to find. I think pomegranate seeds were the best choice to represent scarlet.

But when it came to finding grey toppings, I had no luck at all. I thought that I might find some grey chocolate rocks but upon inspection, none of the rocks were grey (maybe grey ones do exist but not in the particular mix I saw). Even the Jelly Belly mix didn't have any grey beans. The most common colors for fro-yo toppings were brown, white and yellow.

Much as I love the color grey, it seems like it's almost impossible to find grey colored food. Sunflower seeds are grey but you would only see them without their shells at a fro-yo shop.

I suppose I could always buy grey M&Ms and carry those around.

You know you love me. X0 X0, fro-yo girl.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Pinkberry Introduces New Fro-yo Flavor: Blood Orange

Fro-yo girl here. It's new year, new flavor time and the flavor of the moment is Blood Orange. The rollout of Blood Orange Pinkberry began today and continues till Jan. 14th. To accompany the new flavor, Pinkberry also has special toppings: fresh blood orange puree and blood orange slices. They describe the new flavor as follows: "With raspberry and strawberry overtones, Blood Oranges are less acidic than other oranges and make a delicious combination that is citrusy and sweet. Pinkberry's new flavor is bold in flavor, yet still delivers on Pinkberry's light, clean and distinctive taste."

Blood orange facts:
* Blood Oranges are high in antioxidants and have tons of vitamin C.
* Blood Oranges get their red color from high concentrations of a pigment called anthocyanin, a powerful antioxidant that neutralizes the effects of free radicals; free radicals are the agents believed to be responsible for cancer, aging and other health ailments.

Blood Orange Pinkberry is a limited edition flavor, so be sure to try it soon (I know I will. Love the blood orange flavor.)

You know you love me. X0 X0, fro-yo girl.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Fro-yo Hot Spots in 2010

Fro-yo girl here. I'm taking another look back to 2010 and picking the cities in the Bay Area with the most fro-yo activity. Each year I pick out fro-yo hot spots based on three criteria: (1) innovation, (2) quantity of new fro-yo shops and (3) fro-yo quality. Last January 2010, I selected San Jose, Pleasanton, Fremont, and San Mateo.

This year the hot spots are:
* WALNUT CREEK: People in Walnut Creek love fro-yo. Yogurt Park and Yogurt Castle have been there forever. Blush Organic Frozen Yogurt, Tutti Frutti, Yogofina, and Tower 27 all opened in 2010, joining existing fro-yo shops, Yogurt Castle, Yogurt Place, Yogurt Station, Coco Swirl, Yoppi Yogurt, and Yogurt Park.
* OAKLAND: Oakland saw the most fro-yo activity. Multiple new locations of Tutti Frutti and Yogofina led the way. Mr. Green Bubble, iYogurt, and Miam Miam Lounge also opened in Oakland in 2010. Last year was a slow year for new innovative fro-yo shops. The one innovative newcomer of note was Miam Miam Lounge in Oakland.

Honorable mentions:
* BURLINGAME: Harmony Frozen Yogurt opened another branch in late 2009, followed in early 2010 by Blush and Tuttimelon. Cherimoya gave fro-yo a try (for a brief period) and then decided to stick with Vietnamese food.
* DUBLIN: I always think of Blush Organic Frozen Yogurt when I am in the Dublin area. In 2010, Blush was joined by Yogurtland, Yogurt Walk and Tutti Frutti.
* SUNNYVALE: Juicy Berry opened in 2010, and was later joined by Pinkberry and Tutti Frutti.

You know you love me. XO XO, fro-yo girl.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Fro-yo Girl's 2011 Wish List

Fro-yo girl here. Happy Fro-yo New Year! Hope your resolution includes eating more fro-yo in 2011. I'm thinking ahead to what I'd like to see happen in 2011 to come up with my 2011 fro-yo wish list. Since my 2010 wish list items didn't come true, those items are back on the list.

I know fro-yo is coming to SFO International Airport, so I don't have to wish for that. I still haven't tried Yolato's fro-yo popsicles. I want to try Jamba Juice's Whirlin's fro-yo (it's the mix-in kind). My friend wants to see a fro-yo freezer (a freezer built specifically for fro-yo storage).

* Signature fro-yo spoons: I need more of these. I like to use them for home fro-yo consumption.
* Signature recyclable fro-yo cups: Berry Chill lets you collect theirs and bring them back for free fro-yo. I love that idea.
* Mobile fro-yo truck makes it to the Bay Area: This has to be the year. We can't let ourselves be that behind the times. Maybe Twirl & Dip can add fro-yo. They're already serving Straus soft-serve ice cream from their truck.
* Give someone the gift of fro-yo instantly: I've purchased fro-yo gift cards but it's a hassle to have to send it to someone. Fraiche and others have the right idea by allowing you to send your gift certificate by e-mail to someone instantly.
* More Greek fro-yo: Since Greek yogurt is so popular, it seems like more fro-yo places would come up with fro-yo using Greek yogurt as a base. Grahamwich in Chicago has a Greek fro-yo soft serve that I must try.
* Macarons with fro-yo: I know of fro-yo places that sell macarons and macaron places that sell soft-serve ice cream...I'm hoping to encounter a fro-yo sundae with macarons on top OR a giant macaron with fro-yo in the middle!

You know you love me. X0 X0, fro-yo girl.