Zero-fat and dessert may seem like mutually exclusive terms – but one franchise is bringing healthy treats to the nation
Truly guilt-free desserts are few and far between. In light of this, it’s hardly surprising frozen yoghurt has firmly captured the imagination of British consumers. The tart yet tasty treat is rapidly becoming a firm fixture in the UK and it’s an excellent opportunity for new brands to make their mark on Britain’s high streets. Yogberries, one of the earliest trailblazers of this frozen phenomenon, has already built up a very loyal customer base in the north-west and now the froyo makers have got their hearts set on being the nation’s favourite healthy snack.
For Sarah Bradley, the co-founder and managing director of Yogberries, and her co-founder Matthew Agass, a background in food preparation and hospitality management formed a great foundation. However, experience isn’t everything; without a passion for quality, nutritious food, Yogberries might never have come to fruition. “We both had a keen interest in healthy eating and premium organic food,” she explains. “That’s originally where our interest stemmed from.”
Frozen yoghurt has had a presence on the palate of our Antipodean cousins for some time and it was there that the Yogberries seed was first planted. After graduation, Bradley and Agass spent a year in Australia, travelling for a period and then settling and working in Melbourne. “I got a job as a business development manager at a fairly new restaurant so I had quite a keen insight into actually developing a business in its early stages,” she says. “I got a firm understanding of what it actually takes to promote a business and try to drive more trade into a restaurant.” At the end of their time abroad, the couple returned to the UK prepared to put the extra knowledge that they’d acquired to work.
But reacclimatising to life in the UK involved more than just trading suntans for goosebumps. In 2010, the economic climate was far from clement and positions in the events and hospitality sectors were few and far between. Fortunately, the duo already had something else in mind. “We already knew that we wanted to set up our own business,” Bradley explains. “We’d discovered the frozen yoghurt product in Australia and knew that it would be the next big thing to come to the UK.”
Deciding to act as pioneers for the fat-free dessert, Bradley and Agass immediately began to establish their brand. During their time in Australia, their interest in nutrition meant they had spent a lot of time researching various frozen yoghurt brands and, on their return to the UK, they also took a look at high-profile examples such as Pinkberry and Red Mango. Their knowledge of the product, the market and their aims for the business very naturally informed each element of the Yogberries brand. “It had to be easily recognised; obviously berries are associated worldwide with yoghurt,” says Bradley. “Everything behind it had a lot of thought and consideration, going back to the actual natural food and wellbeing side of the company that we wanted to convey to the customers.”
Once Bradley and Agass worked up a business model for their first store, picking a location was no contest – Bradley knew her home town of Hale in Greater Manchester had the exact demographic they were chasing. “It’s a premium product and I felt it needed a premium, affluent location that lends itself well to the area of Hale, with all the yummy mummies and that kind of thing,” says Bradley, laughing. After finding a two-year lease on a property that was just right for their needs, all that was left to do was to open their doors and see whether their faith in their product would be rewarded. “It took off almost instantly,” she recalls. “We were able to build a second store out of the profits of our first just six months after it opened.”
While there had always been an inherent part of the Yogberries business model that relied on an ability to scale rapidly, an additional pressure arose that drove a need for rapid expansion higher in the entrepreneurs list of priorities. In line with the founders’ expectations, the frozen yoghurt industry has taken off in the last year, further driving Yogberries need to capitalise on its market advantage. “We saw six or seven different frozen yogurt companies open just in Manchester alone,” comments Bradley. “We knew we needed a strategy that would get our brand out there as quick as possible.” Fortunately, the benefit of having a tested business model meant Yogberries has leant itself naturally to a franchise model. “It just suits our model brilliantly because we can easily replicate what we’ve done in our corporate stores nationwide.”
Yogberries has only recently opened up its franchise but with seven new locations due to open soon, it’s already proving to be the right move for the enterprise. Potential franchisees are encouraged to really do the numbers to see if Yogberries is right for them and, as part of the purchase process, are welcomed to take time to really check out the competition to see what sets the brand apart. And the enterprise has some very big aims. “In terms of numbers, we aim within the next three years to get up to a hundred stores,” says Bradley. “Judging by the enquiries, that may not just be in the UK alone but also in countries further afield.”
But while these are lofty dreams, they are far from unachievable, particularly with the increasing amount of respect consumers have for healthy, high-quality food brands. “I think at the moment, everybody is trying to be health conscious,” Bradley says. This means a brand that reflects this passion for nutritious treats holds a very strong position in the changing marketplace. “I think something that creates a social environment, where you can enjoy a healthy product, is key to the recession we’re in at the moment,” Bradley concludes. “It’s a small, affordable luxury that isn’t going to pile on the pounds.”