Red Mango. Pinkberry. Yogen Fruz. Menchie’s. FreshBerry. The frozen yogurt trend exploding across the country comes in many forms, as upstarts capitalize on the healthy-eating movement with a frozen treat that’s low in calories and rich in nutrients.

With so many competitors spreading quickly across the country, one frozen yogurt stalwart, TCBY, showed off a new prototype last week that top brass hopes will remind consumers of the brand’s 30-year expertise in the segment.

Opening in TCBY’s home base of Salt Lake City, the company’s newest store sports an updated design and a self-serve model. 

“To me, this was our opportunity to come back with a store design that’s not just beautiful but is really relevant to what people are looking for today as a place to hang out,” says Timothy Casey, president and CEO of TCBY parent company Mrs. Fields Famous Brands, to QSR in an exclusive interview.

“It’s obvious today when you look out and really see what the consumer wants, they want choice, they want to be more in control of their options,” he says.

The new unit, designed by StruckAxiom design firm and located in the Sugarhouse district of Salt Lake City, boasts a teal-and-pink color scheme inside with the brand-new, lower-cap logo garnishing the exterior. 

The interior is accented by brightly colored furniture, wall posters that offer variations on the brand’s famous “The Country’s Best Yogurt” accronym, a “wave wall” that changes colors, and a flatscreen television boasting the nutritional benefits of yogurt.

Casey, who took over from former CEO Michael Ward in May, says the company is looking to draw a new audience with its new look.

“We don’t want to alienate our traditional consumer, which is families,” he says. “But we also want to be appealing to that younger group that’s looking for a great place to hang out, that’s looking for a way of self-expression. And I think we accomplished that.”

The fact that the Sugarhouse store is the company’s only corporate-owned location allows TCBY the liberty of tweaking at will. A second corporate-owned location, with a similar design and self-serve model, will open in Salt Lake City in September. 

Rob Streett, senior vice president of strategic development for TCBY, says the opportunity for the brand to use the corporate-owned locations as test units will help the 400-plus-unit chain’s franchisees.

“Once we can validate this design, look, and feel, then we would want to bring that consistent look to our entire community,” Streett says.

Streett says the new TCBY design will be filtered in as franchisee agreements require operators to refresh their stores. While the self-serve concept will not be mandatory, Streett says franchisee excitement for it is building. Six self-serve stores are already in development.

“Our nearest competitor in the industry now is in the 80–90-unit range as a system,” he says. “We could potentially grow in the next 15 months larger than our competitors have as a base of business.”

Growing a brand is not simply a matter of improving design and service model, it’s also about maintaining a quality product. And being the oldest brand in the category is both a blessing and a curse in that regard.  

Wayne Geilman, product development manager for TCBY, says rolling out new products to a chain of veteran franchisees can be a slow-moving ordeal. Plus, not every fan of TCBY is on board with the nutrition movement.

“We’ve got this new generation that’s very aware of nutrition, and that’s probably 30–40 percent of the population who are really reading labels and doing everything else,” he says. 

Our job is to stay in front of the industry and not have to play any catch-up.”

“The rest of the population is saying, ‘Hey, I just want to eat it.’ They don’t have this nutritional thought in their mind. So we’ve got to meet both of those segments in order to keep TCBY growing at the rate that we want it to.”

Geilman says this challenges him and the R&D department to figure out ways to increase the healthiness of the product for the younger generations demanding it while not alienating flavor-focused consumers. He says the team is working on several ethnic and regional flavors now that it hopes to eventually roll out to stores. With the self-serve stores in their backyard, Geilman says the R&D team will be able to explore new flavor channels and combinations that hadn’t before been possible.

TCBY will also test other elements such as beverage offerings (the Sugarhouse store has a Coca-Cola Freestyle machine) and a new product that execs will only hint at. 

“This is something where we now start to leapfrog the competition,” Casey says. “You’ll see things that … I don’t think anyone else can do at this point in time.”

In the meantime, Casey says TCBY will maintain focus on what’s relevant with the brand’s core consumers, both today and in the future. 

“Is self-serve going to be relevant five years from now? Not sure,” Casey says. “Our job is to stay in front of the industry and not have to play any catch-up.”

Web Exclusives, TCBY