With Hollywood starlets and legitimate actresses sashaying up to frozen yogurt establishments along the West Coast, it was only a matter of time before the Boston area had a few places to get the health-conscious treat-de-jour.
Brookline and its immediate neighbors are now home to two first-year soft-serve frozen yogurt shops: BerryFreeze, in Coolidge Corner, and Chill, steps away from the Brighton/Brookline line in Cleveland Circle. In addition, several Brookline pizza places and cafes has been selling soft-serve frozen yogurt with mix-ins for years, but not the tangy flavored variety that makes gossip columns and food reviews alike and that BerryFreeze and Chill serve.
Paul Chuong, BerryFreeze's general manager, admits that recent celebrity love of "fro-yo" chains such as PinkBerry and Red Mango motivated him and his partners to open the Coolidge Corner location last year, but that the overall wellness trend amongst the American public also had an impact.
"All of us at BerryFreeze liked the idea of frozen yogurt during the early stages of starting up because while celebrities have helped the industry out in California, it seems many people are more health conscious than ever before," said Chuong.
Marissa McNally, labeled a "frozen yogurt aficionado" by her friends, agrees with Chuong's healthful assessment. "Frozen yogurt is trendy in the sense that people have this perception that it's a healthier alternative to ice cream," she remarked, but with a caveat. "I've not done a side by side nutritional comparison or anything, but given the amount of sugar in it (or sugar substitutes which I'd argue are worse) I suspect it's probably not that much better for you."
Frozen yogurts fans, like McNally, often point to the treat's tangy quality and unique flavors (for example, BerryFreeze boasts flavors like Mango-Berry Swirl and Chill is known on online review sites for their Coconut) as reasons for their devotion. Fans also are addicted to the "mix-ins" – fresh fruit, nuts, candies or traditional ice cream toppings that can be added on the top of a serving. Shops charge differently for toppings; some by the total serving weight, others per topping added.
There always is the chance that the toppings negate any healthy benefit the product has over ice cream, especially if the customer loads up on the candies, cookies and sauces. But Chuong notes that many of BerryFreeze's toppings actually boost the healthiness of the treat. "With the ability to choose any toppings they want, especially our freshly cut fruits, they can get their daily vitamins and proteins while enjoying a treat and not feel guilty."
With an seemingly-endless heat wave striking the area this summer, places like BerryFreeze and Chill have been seeing bang-up business – until the temperature hits the mid-90s. "It seems our business is better as it is warmer in the 70s and 80s but during extreme heat, we get fewer customers. Our assumption is that people might try to avoid walking outside," Chuong said.
Trends, much like heat-waves, always must meet an end, but both business owners like Chuong and fans like McNally don't see this edition of the frozen yogurt trend meeting a quick end like of the TCBY trend of the early 1990s.
"This is a fad at the moment but we think this will be a sustainable business since more people are caring more about their health. I think both ice cream and frozen yogurt have their own type of customers much like coffee and tea," surmises Chuong.
McNally agreed: "People love 'the healthy alternative' so I expect the frozen yogurt trend is here to stay."