Dispensing innovation

The granddaddy of frozen yogurt concepts, TCBY (a.k.a. The Country’s Best Yogurt), hasn’t been sitting on the sidelines as newcomers crowd the field. In 2011, the company introduced Super Fro-Yo, a product with enhanced nutritional value, and then kicked off 2012 as “the year of flavor and delight.” This April, TCBY launched the first-ever Greek fro-yo.

A burst of flavors

TCBY created a Consumer Insights and Innovation Department for in-house ideation. “One driver of frozen yogurt sales is choice—in flavor and toppings,” says Greg Allison, senior director of marketing and product innovation for the chain. “So we developed a monthly LTO strategy to launch 12 new flavors this year, creating our own recipes. It gives customers a reason to come back.” So far, TCBY has introduced Old Fashioned Root Beer Float, Bananas Foster, Tropical Coconut and Key Lime Pie, as well as a few core flavors.

Going Greek

With containers of Greek yogurt flying off retailers’ shelves, TCBY jumped in to create a nonfat frozen product with the same creamy richness, tangy taste and healthy profile. Greek Fro-Yo debuted in April, boasting 8 grams protein, 10 grams fiber and a calorie count of 110. “Honey vanilla is the first flavor we’re offering, with one to two other flavors following, based on feedback,” notes Dr. Wayne Geilman, director of R&D.The nutritionals make Greek Fro-Yo a smart choice for breakfast and snacking, opening up another daypart.

Tapping into tastes

“We follow consumer trends to see which flavors are emerging,” Geilman explains. Through data from Mintel and NPD, as well as proprietary research from the flavor houses, TCBY identified nostalgic and international flavors to be in the forefront. “We also listen to suggestions from our customers and franchisees, vendors and suppliers,” he adds. Fruit flavors—reflecting the fresh and healthy trend—and Southern comfort foods came up often as well.

“R&D works on a nine to 18-month lead time. If we find something we like, we put it in our ‘library,’” Geilman explains. “The Key Lime Pie screening took some time; we wanted to deliver the whole experience—from graham cracker crust to filling and creamy topping—in one soft-serve yogurt.”

Still on the shelf

Underwhelming consumer response kept several ideas from making it into the “year of flavor and delight.” Black Currant—popular in Europe—is not ready for play in the U.S., reports the R&D team. You had to be over 65 to appreciate Black Walnut, and the team is still playing with Passion Fruit. “We didn’t kill these flavors, but we’re keeping them in the library for now,” says Geilman.


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