It’s getting harder to stroll a city block without landing in front of yet another frozen yogurt outlet. These brightly colored, sleekly designed shrines to soft-serve bliss are sprouting like spring grass, adding oomph to what some have described as the latest renaissance for a category that was all but written off not long ago.

But frozen yogurt’s latest revival isn’t just any old renaissance. According to Ana Gumabon, director of research and development for a Southern California flavor manufacturer, it’s “a renaissance with a vengeance. It’s a rebirth, but much better.”

Indeed, something more than creamy-dreamy dairy goodness is going on here. Today’s frozen yogurt sports a tanginess that’s new to the category and irresistible to contemporary palates.

As Gumabon said, “The frozen yogurt I remember from the ’80s was not much different from ice cream. The more acidic taste of current frozen yogurt does the name justice.”

Yet that increased tanginess also adds a twist to the task of flavoring Frozen Yogurt 2.0, this new generation of dairy. Product designers have to account for a range of competing factors—from acid levels to the frozen medium—to get the profile just right. Only then can they take today’s fro-yo to its next stage of development.


Perfect timing

Anton Angelich, group vice president of marketing at a Brooklyn-based flavor company, also sees the current trend as frozen yogurt’s second wind.

“You had the chains that emerged as far back as 30 years ago that spread the concept across the country,” he said. “And now in the last few years, you’ve seen the Red Mangos, the Pinkberrys and the proliferation of other startups.”

So it is no wonder that sales of frozen yogurt servings rose 8% from 2010 to 2011, according to The NPD Group, a market research firm. Like all trends, part of the magic boils down to timing, and these days, any treat with a healthy halo like frozen yogurt’s is bound to impress.

“I think a lot of it has to do with the perception of health,” said Angelich, who points out that frozen yogurt combines multiple health hooks into a single appealing package. “It parallels the popularity of probiotics and prebiotics,” he said. “It parallels Greek yogurt. I think it parallels weight management and calorie control.”

Then there’s the pure novelty of it. Sure, frozen yogurt is yogurt. But it’s yogurt “in a different format, at a different temperature and with a different texture,” Angelich said. And far from sticking to the 31 flavors model, today’s frozen yogurt shops regularly rotate through lineups that double that selection; Yogurtland lists 48 unique flavors, including such betcha-never-thought-of-that offerings as blackberry lemon mint tart, root beer float and taro.

Such variety — not to mention the self-service format at many shops — speaks to a generation raised on choice, control and continuous culinary stimulation.

“The delivery and variety of creative flavors and toppings also drive popularity,” Gumabon said. “And there is a new type of consumer—those born in the late-’70s to the ’80s—who’s willing to try new food trends.”

You could argue that the acidic profiles that dominate frozen yogurts today took hold with those same consumers as they swapped super-sour candies during lunch break at school.