(Ambrosio’s note: Welcome to this week’s edition of Fro-Yo Files, an exclusive bonus series for Platinum subscribers of Franchise Chatter. Today’s post is the first of two parts. Stay tuned for Part 2 to be posted tomorrow.)
Fro-Yo Files: Interview with Casey Cooley, Head of Franchise Sales for sweetFrog Frozen Yogurt
Casey Cooley, head of franchise sales for sweetFrog frozen yogurt, joined the company in May 2012 to run its franchise program. A graduate of the University of Richmond, in the city where sweetFrog is headquartered, he has a degree in business administration with a concentration in finance and accounting. He says there is excitement throughout the company as it experiences rapid growth in the fro-yo market with a brand that appeals especially to children. While concentrated primarily on the East Coast, it will open its first franchise in California before the end of the year and expects to have stores coast-to-coast as it builds its franchise program.
Establishing a Name During Poor Economy
In 2009, with the country barely recovering from a recession, Derek Cha made an incredible leap of faith that the economy would get better and started his own business in Richmond, Va. Since then, sweetFrog, a fledgling frozen yogurt chain, has grown by leaps and bounds, multiplying quickly from its first outlets in Richmond to having a presence today in 19 states, with more outlets on the way. By the end of 2012, the company expects to have opened 200 stores across the country, with the greatest concentration presently along the East Coast.
Aside from the dour economic climate, sweetFrog’s rapid growth is also remarkable given the competition in the frozen yogurt-chain segment. As reported by Advertising Age earlier this year, TCBY tops the $723 million fro-yo store segment with an 18 percent market share; but a string of up-and-comers are attempting to knock it from its perch: Pinkberry has a 16 percent market share; Red Mango, 14 percent; and Yogurtland, 8 percent, according to IBISWorld. And while TCBY remains No. 1, it has seen its market share fall from 34 percent in 2006; during that same period, No. 2 Pinkberry has risen from the 9 percent share it had in 2006.
Catering to Children is Key
SweetFrog is not unlike its competitors in terms of product and store decor, but there is a major difference when it comes to branding strategy and the minimal marketing it has done so far: While other chains target adults as potential customers, sweetFrog has developed a brand that appeals to children.
“We definitely see ourselves as a family-friendly brand and kids really have an attraction to us,” said Cooley. “There is kind of a happy feeling when you come in and that’s really what we strive for.”