It would be easy to blame it on Pinkberry.
The popular yogurt company's website touts that "in less than five years, Pinkberry has established a dominant leadership position in the frozen yogurt category." But that only tells part of the story. What this trendsetting treat shop kicked off in Los Angeles and New York has spread far and wide faster than a teeming colony of live active cultures.
Dallas, always but a half-step behind the coasts, has seen an influx of fro-yo shops over the past couple of years to rival the cupcake bakery explosion of, well, the last couple of years. In addition to Orange Cup (four DFW locations with a fifth on the way), Yogilicious (two area shops, soon to be four) and I Heart Yogurt (just one...for now), there's neighborhood fave Natsumi on Henderson and Red Mango even moved their corporate headquarters to Big D.
Oh, and we can look forward to our very own Pinkberry "coming soon".
In the meantime, the latest entry into this already overflowing market is FreshBerry (from the folks who brought us Dixie Cream Donuts--notice a pattern here?). The Oklahoma-born chain now boasts six franchises with another 155 in development from Arizona to the United Arab Emirates. Ours landed in the new Park Lane development across from NorthPark Center. The store celebrated its Grand Opening yesterday by offering a free cup of yogurt to anyone who stopped by, so we headed over to check it out.
FreshBerry occupies a small storefront scattered with bright orange tables and pictures of yogurt-y things on the walls. It's not as stylized as others of its ilk--Orange Cup and Pinkberry, for example, both sport high-concept 60's-mod decors. As per usual, however, FreshBerry features several flavors of frozen yogurt and a selection of fruits, nuts and candies with which to top it. Also like most of the aforementioned yogurt clones, FreshBerry touts the health benefits and low calorie count of its product.
The yogurt itself (we tried the FreshBerry Tart, or "plain") was tangy and rich with a nice bite in the background and hefty mouth-feel that didn't say "diet." Ironic, however, was the fact that the raspberries on top were of the frozen and thawed variety.
So much for the "fresh" part...but maybe they're saving the good stuff for the paying customers.
Other familiar topping choices included bananas and blueberries, gummy bears and the ubiquitously quirky Fruity Pebbles. No surprises there.
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It's worth noting, however, that what these spots lack in originality, they more than make up for in dogma. Perhaps it's the La-la land connection or the fact that some still associate yogurt with hippies, but most spots serve up New Age-y philosophies along with their desserts. Orange Cup is apparently a "way of life" and a flow chart on Natsumi's website implies that regular infusions of its product will promote a "natural state of balance." Yogilicious encourages guests to "Think positive, eat healthy, live and experience every moment because life is good."
To its credit, FreshBerry's website doesn't dabble much in the peace, love and harmony shtick, and that's cool, 'cause we didn't feel enlightened or anything after our visit. It was just a nice sweet treat on a hot day, and there were lots of other folks stopping in to get their own free yogurt sample too. (The Eats blog even reported that FreshBerry's machines overheated later on due to high demand, which must have emitted some environmentally damaging stuff.)
So maybe there's more than enough interest in this new trend to go around...or maybe people just like getting something for nothing. Ain't much new about that.