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Posted: October 01, 2011

State of the state: Retail

Frozen yogurt shops
descend on Denver

Patricia Kaowthumrong

State_Yogurt_Oct11.jpg

Even the most oblivious consumer cannot help but notice the frozen yogurt shops popping up on every other street corner in the Denver metropolitan area. Every store or chain has a different colorful sign, playful interiors and gourmet flavors. However, they all have one thing in common - a desire to conquer Colorado's frozen yogurt market. But why the sudden yogurt craze in the Mile High City?

Melissa Bradley, local operator of Yogurtland, a self-serve yogurt chain from Anaheim, Calif., said it is because Coloradans are so in tune with health and fitness.

"One of the reasons frozen yogurt is so popular is because it is a healthier alternative to other dessert options out there," Bradley said. "I believe nowadays people are more health conscious that they were before, and I think that's why the Denver market has done so well."

The Trust for America's Health and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's annual "F as in Fat" report from 2010 has Colorado listed as the only state in the union with an obesity rate of less than 20 percent. Obesity is defined as a body mass index of 30 or higher (180 or more pounds for a 5'5' person).
Bradley and her partners bought the rights to open 10 Yogurtland stores on the Front Range by the end of 2013. They already have three stores open and one under construction. Bradley said her goals as an operator are to have the cleanest stores with the best customer service.

But dessert lovers don't have to sacrifice taste for health. Yogurtland and most other stores feature the plain tart frozen yogurt flavor, but they also have flavors like "Red Velvet Cupcake Batter" and "Lychee Tart." In addition, customers can choose from a self-serve bar of diverse toppings like fresh fruit, chocolate covered peanut butter cookies and sour gummy worms. All their flavors besides peanut butter are fat free.

Red Mango, another chain with the self-service concept, has four stores in Colorado and one under construction. Dan Kim, founder and operator, said Red Mango's success in the state wasn't a surprise at all.

"We are looking forward to opening more stores," Kim said. "We value being in a state that values health as much as we do."

Kim said Red Mango draws customers with its focus on having only all-natural ingredients and having more to offer than just frozen yogurt.
Smooch, a locally owned and operated shop in Boulder, features frozen yogurt, 21 flavors of mochi, smoothies and cheese. They parted with their franchise Ce Fiore in January 2010 to better serve their customers, said co-owner Michella Luu. She said the rise of competition hasn't affected business much in the last few months.

"There is potential for an oversaturation like there was in L.A.- a huge boom and then many stores closing," Luu said.

Luu said the key to success is staying ahead of the game and listening to customers. Coloradans' fit reputations may have drawn frozen yogurt stores to their soil, but it will truly be survival of the fittest when it comes to which stores survive.
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Patricia Kaowthumrong is a student at the University of Colorado School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Contact her at Patricia.Kaowthumrong@colorado.edu.

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