Hot spot for a cool treat
Greater Boston stores rank in Pinkberry’s top 10 sellers
Hollywood celebrities may hang out at Pinkberry in Los Angeles, but it is the frozen yogurt chain’s Boston area stores that are topping the sales chart.
Pinkberry’s Harvard Square, Newbury Street, and Prudential Center stores have consistently ranked in the top 10 of Pinkberry’s more than 100 locations nationwide since this summer, according to Pinkberry chief executive Ron Graves.
“Certain elements of Boston lend to Pinkberry’s success,’’ said Trippe Lonian, chief executive of NE Frog Pond LLC, Pinkberry’s area developer for most of New England. “It’s a very foodie city. Special flavors like blood orange and salted caramel have had a phenomenal reception.’’
Pinkberry opened its first Massachusetts store in Hingham in August 2010. The Newbury Street location opened that November, followed by the Cambridge and Prudential stores in April of this year. The newest Pinkberry, in Wellesley, opened earlier this month.
Lonian said he is scouting out more locations and hopes to open more in the region by the end of year but would not specify how many and where.
Graves believes the secret to the Boston market’s success comes down to an old business adage: location, location, location.
“Part of the Pinkberry experience is prime real estate, like Newbury Street,’’ said Graves. “We won’t sign a lease unless the place matches the quality of our brand.’’
Another reason why area stores may be so busy: There are only five in Massachusetts, forcing people to flock to those few locations. (Los Angeles itself has 18.)
Madeline Tarasevich, 18, of Narragansett, R.I., ate Pinkberry for the first time last week on Newbury Street. “They should open a Pinkberry in Narragansett,’’ she declared.
Her friend, Kristina Barbone, 18, also from Narragansett, has been to Pinkberry before. “More in New England would be great,’’ she said. “There’s always a line.’’
Pinkberry helped popularize tart frozen yogurt, and after Pinkberry opened in West Hollywood in 2005, the frozen dessert became a popular, healthier alternative to other treats. Word of mouth and paparazzi photos of celebrities such as Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift eating Pinkberry spread the company’s name.
Today, Pinkberry is the country’s second-largest frozen yogurt chain by sales, but it is catching up to number-one TCBY. Pinkberry’s sales grew to $109 million in 2010, up slightly from 2009, as the chain added 19 stores, according to food industry research firm Technomic Inc. During the same period, TCBY’s sales fell 14.3 percent to $120 million, and the company shuttered 100 locations.
“Pinkberry has the advantage of being a new kid on the block,’’ said Technomic president Ron Paul. “It is still a special place to go, and celebrity PR has helped.’’
But Tim Casey, chief executive of TCBY, said his chain still matters.
“While many new players have entered the US market in recent years, TCBY remains the largest frozen yogurt system in the world and still considered ‘The Country’s Best Yogurt,’ ’’ Casey wrote in an e-mail. “We recognize with increased competition and demand for healthier dessert options, we must remain relevant and innovative in all areas of our business.’’
Casey said that TCBY launched a self-serve model and a new store design last year and plans to open 75 stores this year, possibly including some in Boston.
The overall frozen yogurt market is growing in the United States as ice cream sales soften.
According to the Department of Agriculture’s 2010 summary of dairy production, frozen yogurt production has increased 8.1 percent since 2009 to 49.7 million gallons. Regular ice cream production has gone down 0.6 percent, and low-fat ice cream production has decreased 4.9 percent during the same time period.
Frozen yogurt was popular in Boston before Pinkberry’s arrival.
Red Mango is an all-natural nonfat frozen yogurt chain that has a location in Symphony Plaza. Store owner Tarang Gosalia said Pinkberry has not had an effect on his business.
“We’ve been able to stay competitive because we’re not just yogurt,’’ said Gosalia. “Red Mango focuses on giving customers more options of all-natural products.’’
Matt Wallace, owner of BerryLine, also said Pinkberry has not hurt his sales. The local chain opened its first store in 2007 and today has four shops.
“I like to take a lot of credit for the popularity of frozen yogurt in Boston,’’ Wallace said. “There weren’t any shops of its kind when I opened. A lot of folks took notice that frozen yogurt was a great alternative to traditional desserts.’’
Christina Reinwald can be reached at email@example.com.