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Frozen yogurt booms in Iowa City

BY RANA MOUSTAFA | AUGUST 30, 2012 6:30 AM

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The market for frozen yogurt has exploded in Iowa City.

Downtown Iowa City's first frozen-yogurt business, Yotopia, opened in September 2011, but it will no longer be the only frozen-yogurt establishment. Two new places — Orange Leaf and Aspen Leaf — celebrate their grand openings this fall.

Orange Leaf had its opening Aug. 18; Aspen Leaf plans to open in late September.

The increase in the number of "froyo" — as the text-message generation labels the industry — businesses this fall means more competition for storeowners and a whole lot of yogurt options. Each of the three businesses features a variety of options. In addition to such flavors as chocolate, red velvet cake, and pistachio, all three serve no sugar-added, lactose-free, and gluten-free yogurt.

"For some people, it will be about the taste — for others, it will be about the sustainability of the restaurant, and for others, it will be about the customer service," said Karen Kubby, the Downtown District president.

The growth is a reflection of a nationwide trend. Over the past five years, frozen yogurt revenue grew 5.9 percent according to estimates from IBISWorld's November 2011 report. Similarly, froyo servings increased 11 percent in 2011, reaching 128 million.

Kubby said it is hard to determine whether all three businesses will be able to survive, given that they are near each another.

"They will either learn to have a centered atmosphere, or we will end up having yogurt war in Iowa City, and that competition will fuel customer service," she said. "How much yogurt can be eaten in Iowa City, we will see."

Yotopia

Claim to fame: Iowa City's original locally owned frozen-yogurt shop.

What you should know: Partnered with Molly's Cupcakes to serve cupcake bits as toppings on the yogurt.

Yotopia, 132 S. Clinton, opened in the fall of 2011 after owner and entrepreneur Veronica Tessler pursued the idea for Iowa City's first frozen-yogurt business.

Although Aspen Leaf and Orange Leaf are nationwide franchises, Tessler said, she's not concerned because she has plans to enhance Yotopia and make it stand out against the competition.

"We're getting into the breakfast arena and opening a breakfast bar," she said. "We are going to serve local organic breakfast yogurt as well as fresh fruits, nuts, and local granola."

Tessler also stressed that her establishment, which uses live active cultures in its yogurt, will be more sustainable — she plans on having her service ware be 100 percent compostable material.
"Going green has always been a goal of mine," she said. "Sustainability is a very important goal stressed here in the Iowa City community."

Owner's favorite: Tessler — Tart, Georgia Peach, and Red Velvet Cake yogurt.

Orange Leaf

Claim to fame: A weekly selection of 16 flavors, selected from a whooping 72 flavors overall.

What you should know: Giving out free 3-ounce yogurt coupons until Oct. 1.

Orange Leaf, 17 S. Dubuque St., also plans on playing a big role in the community.

Travis Overhue, the owner of the local Orange Leaf, said its main focus is to help organizations around the community raise money and donate money to them. He said the business owner's hope to implement the types of charities the establishment did in the other location, in Omaha, will work in Iowa City.

"We do a lot with the community," he said. "If we want to raise money, we set up sponsors and raise money for churches, high-school games, Little League, and other community members."

Other than community involvement, Overhue said, the business — which uses a powdered mix to create its yogurt daily — stands out because of the variety of flavors offered.

"We have 16 different flavors on display at one time and 72 flavors to choose from," he said. "When customers come in every week, they will have new options to choose from out of the 72 that we have."

Owner's Favorite: Overhue - Peanut butter with hot fudge, Reece's, and brownie toppings.

Aspen Leaf

Claim to fame: A frozen-yogurt business that doubles as a chocolate factory.

What you should know: All yogurt served is kosher and comes from Rainbows End Farms in California.

Aspen Leaf, 125 S. Dubuque St., in late September will bring something new to the table.

"What's going to make us different is we are owned by the Rocky Mountains chocolate factory, which has been around since 1981 and has around 400 locations worldwide and around 300 nationally," said Steve Perlowski, Aspen Leaf's retail-operation manager.

The Iowa City Aspen Leaf will be a co-brand featuring the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, he said.

"How we diversify ourselves is we don't only serve yogurt," he said. "If you don't want yogurt, you can get caramel apples, chocolate-dipped strawberries, chocolate-dipped bananas, chocolate-dipped cheesecake, apples decorated in crushed butter fingers, M&Ms, and Snickers."

Aspen Leaf uses live active cultures to create its frozen yogurt.

Retail Operations Manager Favorite: Perlowski — Brownie batter with peanut butter, cookie dough, and hot fudge toppings.

"People are still trying to think about their health, but they still want a treat," Kubby said. "So, frozen yogurt is a trend in Iowa City because more people care about their health."


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