Turning up the heat on fro yo

YESTERDAY was a big day for fans of icy treats as Pinkberry, the cult US frozen yoghurt brand, opened a concession in Selfridges. Stars from David Beckham to Alexandra Burke have publicly rejoiced and Americans all over the city are in raptures.

Scheduled to open here in 2008, Pinkberry delayed its UK opening after Lehman Brothers fell. Into the vacuum flooded British entrepreneurs attracted to the high volume, high profit, low-cost product – they’d seen Pinkberry’s raging success and wanted in on it.

And boy has London’s snackscape changed since 2008. Back then it was all about cupcakes. Now: sleek, airy shops like Frae, Snog, Yog, Yu-Foria, Yogurtry, Yoo Moo, Lick and Samba Swirl specialise in low or non-fat yoghurts – many with calorie counts around 100 for a small cup. Some of them are also probiotic – meaning they contain live organisms that are good for you.

“I love the fro yo trend,” says Maria Black, a City lawyer. “I’m on Weight Watchers and it’s got a pretty low point value. It’s a brilliant loophole for dieters. I live in Notting Hill and there’s a Frae there – I’m a regular.”

Meanwhile, the City and Canary Wharf are waiting with bated breath for their share of the fro-yo phenomenon. Itsu, currently the only purveyor of zero-fat frozen yogurt in the area, is flooded with health-conscious City snackers. Toppings are far from naughty: fruit, granola, cashews. An Itsu spokeswoman says: “We’ve seen City sales quadruple over the summer months and are delighted to have launched our zero hero probiotic yoghurt in Canary Wharf last month.”

“I wish we had more choice, though,” says Diane Rosen, a banker based in Canary Wharf. “Apart from Itsu we don’t have Snog or any of the others. It’s an obvious next step, surely. I can’t get enough – nor can my colleagues.” (City A.M. rang round and none of the main players confessed to plans to open in the City yet.)

But why is the rest of London going mad for fro yo now? “Pinkberry started the whole craze,” says Tanya McMullen, a Selfridges buying manager. “It’s an “it” brand that also fits with the fashion customer, which is why it works well at Selfridges.”

In the UK, Snog is the market leader. Alice Keown, of Davis Coffer Lyons, a property consultancy that represents landlords of frozen yogurt outlets, says: “Snog has the Pinkberry look and feel, the Japanese school girl aesthetic, with plastics, neons and so on. The Hello Kitty aspirational vibe. By contrast, places like Yuforia have gone for natural route – reclaimed timber and recycled to reflect the natural goodness of the actual product.”

Frozen yoghurt is about hanging out, not just eating. “The coffee boys have opened up the early evening craze,” says Keown. “Instead of going for alcohol, it’s one of the alternatives. They’re very women-friendly, and popular with young people.” Pinkberry is at Selfridges. www.pinkberry.com