Industry News | June 23, 2008

Yogen Fruz Opens Second Chicagoland Location

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Yogen Fruz is opening its second Chicagoland store tomorrow as part of a major push into the U.S. market. The new store at Orland Square Mall in Orland Park will feature Yogen Fruz's signature create-your-own yogurt/fruit blends along with other frozen yogurt specialties.

The company will be celebrating the official grand opening tomorrow, Saturday, June 21, with special offers at both Orland Park and the recently opened location at Woodfield Shopping Center in Schaumburg.

Up to 1,000 U.S. outlets are planned by 2018, with 150 units already planned by master franchisees in the Orlando, Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles metropolitan areas. Locations will range from small kiosks to mid-sized inline stores and 800 to 1,400 square foot sit-down outlets in strip plazas, shopping malls, and regional shopping centers.

The menu is anchored by Yogen Fruz's "Blend It"--a combination of low-fat, non-fat, or no-sugar-added frozen yogurt and any of 16 varieties of flash-frozen fresh fruit mixed in the company's proprietary machines while customers watch--as well as a "Top It" option featuring plain yogurt with a choice of 18 toppings from fruit to granola, carob chips, and Cap'n Crunch. Other menu selections include dairy and non-dairy smoothies, fresh fruit cups, and parfait-style breakfast yogurt layered with fresh berries.

The low-fat and non-fat yogurt as well as the dairy smoothies are packed with added probiotic cultures that have been shown to promote a healthy digestive system, improve mineral absorption, fortify the immune system, manage lactose intolerance, and even help lower cholesterol. Yogen Fruz has more than 17 million live probiotic cultures per gram compared to as few as 69,000 for other brands, making a healthy snack alternative even healthier.

"New frozen yogurt vendors are sprouting as fast as new mobile phones, but none of them have Yogen Fruz's combination of menu variety, probiotic benefits, critical mass and market experience," says Aaron Serruya, who started the company with his brother Michael in 1986. "We're entering the U.S. market with distinct advantages that we believe will allow us to quickly be a dominate player in this category."

Yogen Fruz opened its first store in Toronto in 1986 when the Serruya brothers were 19 and 20. Aaron had seen frozen yogurt stands in Florida and enlisted Michael in a plan to import the idea to Canada. The siblings approached several U.S. chains for the Canadian franchise rights, but they were turned away because of their age. Undaunted, they pooled their own funds, added money borrowed from their father, invented the Yogen Fruz name, and went to work developing their own version of the fro-yo phenomenon. The first location in a Toronto mall caught on so quickly that they were able to start franchising.

The first franchise unit opened a year later in London, Ontario. By 1989, the brothers had 100 stores in Canada. In November 1991, they expanded to Indonesia with their first master franchisee. By the mid 1990s, they were selling master franchise territorial rights in Europe and Latin America.

The U.S. has always been on the Serruyas' road map, but at first American tastebuds weren't ready for what Yogen Fruz had to offer. The Yogen Fruz product has the distinctive tart undertones of natural yogurt. Twenty years ago, the frozen yogurt that took the U.S. by storm was flavored to mimic ice cream. Today, tastes have changed.

"Over the last four years, natural yogurts have been the fastest-growing food category in U.S. grocery stores. This has familiarized American consumers with tarter yogurts, and that's what today's yogurt stores are delivering," Aaron Serruya says. "The timing is right to build a U.S. presence."

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