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With 2 dozen shops on the way, is frozen yogurt reaching a topping point?
Chicago has become a hot spot for frozen yogurt, with the biggest players set to add up to 25 shops by the end of the year.
Forever Yogurt plans to open eight Chicago-area stores in the next six weeks, bringing the Wicker Park-based chain’s local total to 17.
Dallas-based Red Mango, with more than 240 stores nationally, plans to increase its presence here from 21 to 40 by June, with up to nine stores slated to open this year.
And Orange Leaf, an Oklahoma-based chain with 271 froyo shops, is gearing up for the Chicago market. Businessman Chintu Patel signed a deal last year to develop 30 Orange Leaf stores in Illinois in the next 10 years, including eight in Chicago by the end of November. Patel also owns the area’s lone Orange Leaf, in Elk Grove Village.
That will bring the total to no less than 54 locations of the major players alone. Red Mango, Orange Leaf and Forever Yogurt each offer treat-seekers dozens of rotating flavors and nearly limitless toppings, paid by weight.
“The space is very crowded,” Michael Farah, founder of now-shuttered local froyo chain Berry Chill, said in an email. “And nobody is doing anything to differentiate themselves.”
Meg Schmitz, senior franchise consultant with FranChoice, disagrees, saying branding is key to a market like frozen yogurt. “To me, it’s like Krispy Kreme,” she says. “There’s nothing new about doughnuts, but Krispy Kreme made a big splash for a while — they were all the rage. And then things shifted there, but doughnuts never went away anymore than frozen yogurt went away. It’s just which brand is the brand of choice.”
Even in the crowded market, Forever Yogurt co-founder and creative director Ahmad Yilmaz isn’t worried. “We’re seeing another growth and interest in this industry,” Yilmaz says. Forever Yogurt’s lowest-earning store did $550,000 in sales last year, and its highest brought in $1.1 million.
To stand out, quick expansion could be the key. “Forever Yogurt [has] done a really great job of expanding quickly; they want to be the first in the marketplace,” Schmitz says. “It’s absolutely intimidating then to people looking at other brands.”
Even with the major influx of frozen yogurt shops, Schmitz doesn’t see things cooling down anytime soon. “I’d like to say that because frozen yogurt has been around, really for a long time, it’s not such a hot trend. I think there’s a ton of staying power to it…. I think frozen yogurt’s got a lot of legs.”
Chicago-area froyo shops in the works
Schaumburg, in Woodfield Mall
Up to nine stores, with locations to be determined