Is frozen yogurt a healthy treat or junk food in disguise It's the latest High Street fad beloved by celebrities. But the cold truth is you might be better off with a Cornetto
10:58 GMT, 20 September 2012
As they idly munch, the cows of North Wales have little idea they are at the very epicentre of a hot new trend.
They supply the milk for Frae, a chain of supremely cool ‘fro-yo’ — or frozen yogurt — bars that are cutting a swathe across Britain.
Three years after establishing its first chain in North London, the company now has seven branches and is growing fast. And it’s just one of a dozen such firms, all jumping on the fro-yo bandwagon.
Converted: Carmen Electra tucks into a dish of frozen yogurt with her assistant
Earlier this month it was announced that the frozen yogurt market in this country had passed the 6 million mark.
Frozen yogurt is the latest concept to take the High Street by storm, following our obsession with coffee shops and sushi bars. Seemingly overnight, a profusion of frozen yogurt bars have appeared across the nation, with names such as Yoomoo, Tutti Frutti, Samba Swirl, Moosh, Yuforia and Yogland.
Then there is Snog, with its cheeky catchphrases ‘Do You Want a Snog’ and ‘You’ll never forget your first Snog’. The chain has signed a partnership with food giant Unilever, which will see it open branches in cities from Bath to Leeds. Celebrities including actress Katie Holmes, model Elle Macpherson and singer Kayne West have been spotted enjoying frozen yogurts in flavours from raspberry to marshmalllow — there’s even a branch of Yoomoo in Harrods.
But where did this new trend come from and who are the cool entrepreneurs making a fortune from frozen yogurt And is a tub of ‘fro-yo’ really a low-calorie superfood or is it actually, as some nutritionists suggest, simply another well-marketed junk food
Fans: Simon Cowell, left, and Keira Knightley who was an early customer
of Frae and asked for hers to be served with a chocolate chip topping
As with many such fads, the frozen yogurt fashion can be traced to America, where two young Koreans opened a fro-yo shop called Pinkberry in 2005. The chain now has more than 100 stores in the U.S., three in the United Kingdom and is expanding into the Middle East .
It’s a lucrative business. The average Pinkberry shop in America attracts 1,500 customers a day generating revenues of 170,000 a month. The frozen-yogurt market is now worth some 200 million in America. British frozen yogurt companies are hoping to replicate such success.
The trend arrived here thanks to two former corporate lawyers, who spotted a gap in the British market after having eaten frozen yogurt in New York.
Donald Murray and Martyn Pollock, both 30, pooled their savings of 80,000 and opened the first branch of Frae in Islington, North London, in 2009. In the early days, they slept in the shop to cut costs.
An early customer was actress Keira Knightley, who chose a chocolate chip topping. Frae now sells up to 1,000 pots on a daily basis across London, from 4.10 each, and has branches in Top Shop’s flagship Oxford Street store and at Harvey Nichols in Knightsbridge.
Frae’s customers are 70 per cent female, and typically aged between 18 and 35. They choose from a menu including green tea and honey-flavoured yogurt.
Murray says: ‘This is all about
healthy treating. As treats go, it is guilt-free. If they sit down and
eat a tub of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, girls feel guilty. It has
1,000 calories a tub. Frae is 83 calories in a tub. It’s indulgence
without feeling they have to go on the treadmill or starve themselves
for the rest of the day.’
Murray is evangelical about his product, and explains that Frae frozen yogurt is made with real milk, rather than powder.
Frozen yogurt was introduced to the U.S. in the Seventies under the name Frogurt
is a nutritionally balanced superfood. It is naturally fat free and
full of probiotics, which are good for the immune system and digestion.
We keep it as simple and natural as possible,’ he says. Rob Baines,
co-founder of Snog, is also keen to talk up his product’s credentials,
insisting his frozen yogurt is the healthiest on the market.
is made with real yogurt and Mexican agave syrup instead of sugar, and
topped with fresh fruit. He opened his first branch in South Kensington
‘There are no
chemicals like some of our competitors use,’ says Baines, 48, a
Canadian former banker. ‘We now have branches in nine countries, with
five in London. Everyone likes ice cream, but we’re all more health
conscious these days.’
Two months ago, Unilever invested in the company for an undisclosed sum, and a rapid British expansion is planned.
and Lyndsey Packham, 35 and 28, run Samba Swirl, a chain of frozen
yogurt shops founded last year, where you can choose from toppings such
as fresh fruit and nuts, Smarties, Jelly Babies, and honeycomb.
Their top sellers are Peanut Butter, and Red Velvet — a buttermilk and chocolate cheesecake flavour.
says: ‘It’s been a hugely successful launch. The UK market is very much
embryonic, but there is a proliferation of them popping up. We’ve sold
half a million pots so far.’
reason frozen yogurt bars are expanding so rapidly is that they are
easy to run as franchises. Costs are low because customers often serve
themselves, and there is a significant mark-up on the wholesale price of
the yogurt mix — ingredients can cost just 20p a tub. But are frozen
yogurts really healthy, or is this all a marketing gimmick
Go with the 'fro': A refreshing yogurt dish topped with berries – but is it as healthy as it looks
Nutritionists say that while frozen yogurt can be healthy, the toppings we are encouraged to pile on negate its benefits.
it has been reported that some of Pinkberry’s offerings contain as much
sugar as a McDonald’s McFlurry and more sugar than a Krispy Kreme
York-based nutritionist Lana Masor explains: ‘There are two things in
this world that make food taste really good — fat and sugar — so if
something claims to be fat-free but it tastes delicious, you can bet
that it is loaded with sugar.’
Frutti says its frozen yogurt could potentially prevent colon cancer
and improves mineral absorption. Yuforia says it is ‘technically
fat-free! That’s 56 times less fat than a Magnum!’
Alice Mackintosh, a nutrition
consultant at The Food Doctor says: ‘Even if frozen yogurts are
fat-free, if they are high in sugar, your body may take the sugar and
store it as fat. They don’t offer much nutritional value, and should not
be mistaken for a healthy snack.’ The probiotic element is in too low a
concentration to have much impact, she adds.
also question whether this is simply another way for women to ape
size-zero celebrities who are seen clutching the tubs on their way to
yoga and pilates in Beverly Hills.
Orbach, author of Fat Is A Feminist Issue says: ‘This is ice-cream
without being naughty and dangerous. It gives you a sugary, creamy hit
without the calories.’
She adds: ‘The struggle for women is to really enjoy food. If they are having a frozen yogurt because they really enjoy it, then great. If they are eating it simply because it is low-calorie, they will still be left wanting the thing they have deprived themselves of: which is an icecream.’
Self-denial may not be good for the soul, but it is certainly proving lucrative for an enterprising band of frozen entrepreneurs.