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Published June 17, 2012, 11:30 PM

The new cold war: F-M seeing influx of frozen yogurt stores

FARGO - Self-serve frozen yogurt might be cool, but it’s doing hot business in the Fargo-Moorhead area.

By: Megan Card, INFORUM

FARGO - Self-serve frozen yogurt might be cool, but it’s doing hot business in the Fargo-Moorhead area.

The do-it-yourself shops that offer yogurt priced by the ounce and a colorful array of candy and fruit toppings are popping up all over the metro. In the past year, eight locations have opened, and more are on the way.

This recent local boom isn’t unique to the F-M area, either – rather, frozen yogurt chains continue to expand and thrive nationally, as well. In March, CNBC reported that fro-yo servings in 2011 increased 11 percent to 128 million overall.

Tutti Frutti, with three Fargo locations, was the first to emerge on the F-M fro-yo scene in April 2011. Operated by Froyo Ventures and owned by Rob and Stacy Ingstad and Casey and Tallie Colville, the business owns the Tutti Frutti license for Fargo.

“The main reason we chose frozen yogurt is because it was a business obviously lacking in the area,” Stacy Ingstad said. “We were the first self-serve in the untapped market in Fargo, and we grew because there was a demand.”

Another self-serve franchise taking advantage of the local demand is CherryBerry. Three of those have opened since September, two in Fargo and one in West Fargo, and there are plans to open a Moorhead shop in July.

The division of local CherryBerry ownership is split between two separate business partnerships. Two of the original Fargo stores were licensed by Chris Holland and Mike Riggs, while the newly opened West Fargo store and future Moorhead location are owned by Mike Hofer and his family.

Holland and Riggs have since opened a Grand Forks location and employ about 15 workers, most of them part-time.

“The bottom line is people like the ability to choose what they want and how much they want,” said Holland.

Passion Twist in Fargo, the lone independent start-up and the smallest of the three, is owned by Vena Pham.

Andrew Pham, Passion Twist’s assistant manager and Vena Pham’s brother, said their business also has been booming, in part because they did not pay to be a franchise and because of other cost-saving measures.

“We could cut down on the staff because people don’t need more staff, they want options for their yogurt,” Andrew said.

The booming froyo business has made a dent in the traditional treat of summer, Dairy Queen.

“Frozen yogurt has taken business away from our store, especially during the summer,” said Mackenzie Brimm, manager of the Dairy Queen on 32nd Avenue in Fargo. “We used to have lines out of the door, and we have had people come multiple times asking for frozen yogurt.”

TCBY’s Fargo location at 1020 19th Ave. N. has not yet made the shift to self-serve, but nationally the company has indicated plans to switch its restaurants over to that model.

Monica Wonnenberg of Bismarck, owner of the Fargo TCBY, was not available for comment on Sunday.

Differences among frozen dairy treats

• Ice cream: By United States Department of Agriculture standards, a food labeled “ice cream” should have at least 20 percent milk solids and 10 percent milk fat by weight. Premium brands are fattier, typically 14 to 18 percent. Both milk and cream are used. Sweeteners account for another 15 percent or so.

• Frozen custard: A touch of egg yolk is what distinguishes frozen custard from commercial ice cream. Legally, custard only has to contain 1.4 percent egg yolk by weight, but some brands have more. The lecithin in the yolk is a natural emulsifier, imparting a richer, creamier texture.

• Frozen yogurt: Frozen yogurt blends yogurt (milk fermented with yogurt cultures) with an ice cream base of milk, cream and sweetener. The resulting dessert is both sweet and tangy, cold and creamy. If made with live cultures, frozen yogurt promotes digestive health by encouraging the growth of “friendly” bacteria in the intestinal tract.

Information from TLC.com

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Forum reporter Sam Benshoof contributed to this report