Frozen yogurt pioneer keeps cool as Edmonton market heats up
BY BILL MAH, EDMONTONJOURNAL.COM JUNE 14, 2012
Michael Bossio is a retired financial planner who noticed how much he and his family loved creating and eating self-serve frozen yogurt in the States, and he brought the concept to Sherwood Park in 2009. He is pictured here in his Terwillegar store.
EDMONTON – On a visit to the United States, Michael Bossio was treating his children to frozen yogurt topped with fruit when he decided to bring one of that country’s hottest food concepts back with him to Edmonton.
Three years later, with five of his Twisted Yogurt shops now open across the Edmonton region, and growing, Bossio shrugs at a wave of froyo competitors — from big multinationals to locals — following in his footsteps.
Bossio, a 36-year-old retired financial planner, was spending time in Palm Springs and noticed the abundance of frozen-yogurt shops, including one nearby outlet he frequented every night with his family.
“I kind of fell in love with the whole concept,” Bossio said. “I didn’t understand how there wasn’t something like this up here yet.
“I liked the fact it was a product that was non-fat that tasted awesome so I started working on making a store up here.”
He bought a yogurt-making machine on eBay, set it up in his garage and “I was like a mad scientist working in the garage on different varieties.
In 2009, Bossio opened his first Twisted Yogurt store in Sherwood Park.
Less than a year later, he opened up a second shop. He now has stores in Spruce Grove, Southpark Centre, Terwillegar and St. Albert. He’s eyeing expansion in Red Deer, Calgary and the B.C. interior. Bossio is undecided on franchising the concept, however, one of the stores is co-owned with partners.
Twisted Yogurt has seen year-over-year sales growth, he said.
Bossio says frozen yogurt, which first became all the rage in the 1980s, is more than a passing fad this time around with consumers’ greater awareness of nutrition and a help-yourself concept that allows for portion control and appeals to families. Some rival yogurt retailers prefer staffers to dish out the yogurt at set prices.
Under the self-serve concept, which Bossio says is crucial to the success of his stores, customers pull non-fat or low-fat yogurt like black berry and cotton candy into a cup and scoop fun toppings like Captain Crunch cereal or jelly beans or go healthier with fruits and nuts.
“What they’re enjoying is the taste, but also the whole experience of being able to create something yourself. Looking at Twitter and Facebook, people are posting pictures of their yogurt, they’re so proud of how it looks.”
People pay by the weight of their creations — 54 cents an ounce, with a typical serving between eight to 10 ounces.
Bossio says the quality of his yogurt, his self-serve model and his stores’ locations gives it an edge over the competition. Twisted Yogurt uses Alberta-made ingredients from suppliers such as Bles-Wold Dairy instead of yogurt-flavoured soft-serve “that some rivals use. Others don’t let customers serve themselves.
“I don’t want to toot my own horn, but I am proud of the fact that we were able to take a small company from zero stores to five stores within a two-and-a-half year period.”
New players in froyo Cold War
Frozen yogurt is heating up in Edmonton
A decade after South Korea company Red Mango pioneered the current craze for the tart variety of non-fat frozen yogurt that spread to Los Angeles and across the United States — Edmonton is catching a case of froyo mania.
Kit Abuan says Edmonton is becoming the hot spot in Western Canada for the treat, and as territory manager for frozen yogurt equipment supplier DSL, he should know.
“With (Twisted Yogurt) having five locations and in the next month or two, two more local business people will be opening up their shops, so that puts us as the capital of Alberta for yogurt,” Abuan said.
“It’s a growing trend that we’re in the middle of and there are some multinationals coming.”
Compared to frozen yogurt popular in the 1980s, the new varieties are tangier and more tart.
Here’s a look at some of the new combatants in Edmonton’s version of the Cold War.
Tutti Frutti — It bills itself as the world’s largest and fastest-growing self-serve frozen yogurt chain and has global headquarters in Los Angeles and Canadian headquarters in Edmonton. Worldwide, it has 580 locations in 30 countries.
Tutti Frutti opened its first location in Edmonton on Whyte Avenue last fall.
“Edmonton just happens to be home of our head office and we thought it was best to put the first location in our great city,” said Eric Chang, from Tutti Frutti’s Edmonton marketing department.
“Since then we have gone to expand across the country,” he said.
The company has 18 signed locations across Canada, including stores opening in Southgate Centre, West Edmonton Mall, Millwoods Town Centre, Northgate Centre and Windermere.
The store features a self-service model.
Pinkberry — Pinkberry, which opened its first store in 2005 in West Hollywood, is an upscale player in the market. It developed a following of “groupies” so passionate that the chain was nicknamed “Crackberry.” Celebrity fans include Paris Hilton, Salma Hayek and Mike Tyson.
The Los Angeles-based company has 180 stores across 17 countries. Employees rather than customers assemble the orders and Pinkberry says it uses handcrafted proprietary purées and blends them with real non-fat yogurt and hormone-free non-fat milk.
In Edmonton, franchisees Ken Thicke and Jeff Litzenberger are expected to open Alberta’s first Pinkberry on July 12 at West Edmonton Mall, with free samples from 5-9 p.m.
“West Edmonton Mall is the perfect venue to introduce our brand in Alberta,” Thicke said. “Alberta’s cultural diversity and strong economic growth over the last few several decades provides a sound basis for doing business vrai viagra sur internet.”
Kiwi Kiss — The entrepreneur behind the Booster Juice smoothie empire launched a frozen yogurt venture in late 2009 that he presciently called the next big thing.
As happened with smoothies — Dale Wishewan opened his first Booster Juice in Sherwood Park 13 years ago after a U.S. trip — Wishewan said in a 2009 interview he noticed the soaring popularity of frozen yogurt outside Canada. The result was an employee-serve yogurt shop at Edmonton City Centre.