Today, I’m introducing a brand new section of Franchise Chatter called “Between the Lines,” and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that you’ll enjoy it as much as my other blog staples, “FDD Talk” and “Franchise Chatter Exclusive Q&A”.
PR firms routinely send me a handful of press releases every weekday, with a request for posting. I hesitate to publish press releases with any regularity because — correct me if I’m wrong — you don’t come to Franchise Chatter for franchise news, but rather for unbiased commentary from me and the rest of our small community.
But every so often, I come across one or two press releases that deserve your attention, and I’ve been trying to find a way to publish them in a manner that’s consistent with the spirit of Franchise Chatter.
So I’ve decided that, instead of simply posting press releases in their original form, I’ll be reading “between the lines” and sprinkling my personal opinions throughout the release. This is my way of ensuring that you’re up-to-date with all the newsworthy events in franchising, while still maintaining the independence and objectivity that you’ve come to expect from Franchise Chatter. So here goes…
Based in Salt Lake City, TCBY (The Country’s Best Yogurt) has been a frozen yogurt innovator from the day its first shop opened in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1981. Ever since, the great-tasting, low-fat frozen yogurt concept has received an enthusiastic response from an increasingly health-conscious public. With more than 600 locations both in the United States and internationally, TCBY – Best Tasting, Best For You™ – has long been a healthier alternative for consumers looking for a treat or snack.
TCBY recently announced a licensing partnership with Spring Creek Holdings for a new line of pre-packaged frozen yogurt, “TCBYGrocery“, to be sold at approximately 10,000 stores nationwide including national brands like Wal-Mart and Super Target, and regional brands such as A&P, Stop N Shop, Food Lion and Giant.
I have mixed feelings about this latest development in fro yo land. I’m always concerned when a franchisor makes its products available outside the franchise system. This stems from my frustration with my former franchisor, The UPS Store, who I feel competes directly with its franchisees by offering the same service to the public at a lower price. To add insult to injury, UPS allows its own customers to drop off their pre-labeled packages at thousands of independently owned UPS stores, without compensating the franchisees fairly. But I digress…
In the case of TCBY, channel conflict is a legitimate concern because its frozen yogurt will now be available in approximately 10,000 stores nationwide, dwarfing the number of franchised TCBY locations around the world (which is just over 600).
Since 1989, Spring Creek Holdings has played a key role in the expansion of frozen dessert sales channels across North America. Known for their ability to make great tasting products, Spring Creek Holdings is a trusted holder of frozen dessert licenses for many well known brands.
Mrs. Fields Famous Brands, owner of both TCBY and Mrs. Fields Cookies, and one of America’s most recognizable food-related brands, has a solid history of licensing agreements within the grocery market.
It’s hard to imagine Mrs. Fields making a huge comeback in franchising because its cookies are now available in supermarkets and convenience stores across the country. The quality of the packaged version is superior to most store bought brands, but whether it’s worthy of the Mrs. Fields name is another matter. I can’t help but wonder if this strategy has so weakened the brand equity of Mrs. Fields that it’s no longer a viable franchise opportunity.
“This is a pivotal time for the TCBY brand,” says Tim Casey, the company’s President and Chief Executive Officer. “Consumers express the need for a variety of healthy indulgences when visiting their local grocery stores, and as the frozen yogurt category leader, increasing our footprint in grocery brings TCBY into the home. Having an established licensing partner in the food service industry such as Spring Creek Holdings, reaffirms our category leadership and benefits the brand and our franchise base.”
I had the privilege of interviewing Tim Case recently and I was very impressed with his responses. Compared to other frozen yogurt franchise executives I’ve spoken with (who shall remain nameless), Tim came across as sharp and seasoned.
Despite my reservations, I can see where Tim is going with this new strategy. If TCBY does not invade the supermarket aisles first, some other lesser known frozen yogurt brand will. So instead of giving the competition the opportunity to dominate this new channel, Tim has decided to strike first, and who can blame him? If executed properly, this move could make the brand the clear leader in the frozen yogurt category.
According to IBIS World, movements in health and nutrition have ushered new products into the frozen desert marketplace as consumers have become increasingly aware of the links between sugar and fat consumption and heart disease. This has caused a shift toward healthier dessert alternatives like frozen yogurt. The frozen yogurt industry has been growing at an annual rate of 4.3 percent and is projected to remain stable as health-conscious consumers and new markets drive growth. Research recently conducted by Spring Creek Holdings uncovered that frozen yogurt shoppers are currently disappointed with the selection at many local retailers, and would like more variety in healthier frozen yogurt options.
Frozen yogurt contains a lot of sugar, so it’s really not the healthiest dessert option out there. But I concede that frozen yogurt is a good alternative to ice cream because of its probiotics, which aids digestion.
“In more than 20 years in this category, developing the TCBY frozen yogurt product line for retail locations is the most exciting program I have ever been involved in,” says Jerry Isaacson, President/CEO of Spring Creek Holdings, North American licensee of the TCBY brand. “TCBY holds a place as an iconic brand in our consumer consciousness and I’m thrilled we are partnering to bring delicious frozen yogurt to consumers who love the brand and introduce it to our next generation.”
Barrington, Ill.-based Spring Creek Holdings will produce the following flavors under the TCBY label: Chocolate, Vanilla Bean, Mint Chocolate Chunk, Toffee Crunch, Cookie Dough, Cookies & Cream, Very Berry Strawberry and Mango Peach. The eight flavors will be released this month in pints and quarts of hard pack frozen yogurt, as well as a variety of novelties including frozen yogurt sandwiches and bars, with additional exclusive innovations to follow later this year.
It’s important to note that the new hard pack frozen yogurt, yogurt sandwiches, and yogurt bars are different from the soft-serve version available in TCBY stores. That alone should diffuse some of the concerns over channel conflict. The best case scenario is that TCBYGrocery steals market share away from other ice cream brands found in supermarket and convenience store freezers, while keeping the TCBY brand at the forefront of people’s minds.
The risk, however, is two-fold: either the store bought version does not live up to the TCBY brand, or the quality is so good that a trip to a TCBY store becomes unnecessary.