By Alex Lippa
---- — It may be the coldest new trend in Southern New Hampshire.
With six new stores opening within the last year, frozen yogurt shops are now sprinkled all over the region.
“It’s new, innovative and cool,” said Elizabeth Menard, 17, of Londonderry. “And it’s a lot healthier than ice cream is.”
Menard was eating her customized blueberry and cheesecake treat at Sweet Kiwi Frozen Yogurt in Londonderry, which opened last month. With self-service, funky furniture and bright colors, so far the shop has been a success.
“It’s been a really warm welcome,” said Laura Calamari, co-owner of Sweet Kiwi. “We thought we’d be catering to the teenage group, but we’ve been pleasantly surprised to see people of all ages coming in.”
In the last five years, many frozen yogurt shops have opened throughout the country. The industry grew by an average of 3.7 percent per year between 2007 and 2012 , according to a report done by market researching firm IBISWorld.
FroyoWorld in Salem also opened within the last month.
“This is a healthy alternative that isn’t something that will break the bank,” co-owner Lynn Caesar said. “It’s something that the consumer can control.”
It’s all about customization. Customers are handed a cup and they use self-serve machines to fill it up. Whether it’s typical vanilla and chocolate, or salted caramel and root beer, customers can mix and match as many flavors as they want.
Once they’ve decided on their combination of frozen yogurt, on comes the toppings. Graham crackers, gummy worms and fruit are among the dozens of options available.
“I just love being able to put on the toppings,” said Leah Farley, 49, of Derry.
After the treat is finally made, the cup is weighed and customer is charged by the ounce. Frozen yogurt is typically priced between 40 and 50 cents per ounce.
“Sometimes you will go to an ice cream shop and order a small and it will be a lot more than you wanted,” Caesar said.
At Frozyos in Salem, which opened in February, there are set prices for different sizes, starting at 3.99 for a kiddie cup.
“It makes the whole process go so much smoother,” said Norris Viviers, manager of Frozyos. “By the time you get to the register, you’ll know exactly how much it will be.”
Leslie Thompson, owner of Billy’s Frozen Yogurt in Derry, said she had planned for two years to open a frozen yogurt shop after seeing the success of Pinkberry and Red Mango in California.
“You couldn’t help but notice the figures they were doing during a recession,” Thompson said. “Until recently, there was nothing at all here in New Hampshire.”
Thompson opened Billy’s in February and had the name in mind right from the start.
“We call it Billy’s, since we have a couple flavors made with goat yogurt,” she said.
Yogurt City in Plaistow opened this spring and Tutti Frutti at the Rockingham Mall in Salem has been open since last year.
With the emerging popularity of these frozen yogurt shops, at least one ice cream shop owner has had to make an adjustment.
“We just started serving nonfat yogurt this year,” said Jim Salloway, owner of Jim’s Ice Cream Barn in Salem. “We want to grab those customers who have started to want that as well.”
But Salloway believes frozen yogurt is just the flavor of the month.
“I think it’s a fad and it will go away after a series of time,” he said. “They are so limited in what they sell. They only have 12 flavors or so, where we have more than 70. You can’t get a frappe or a parfait or a banana split there.”
But, at least the younger clientele, the new frozen yogurt shops are the place to be.
“Londonderry has never really had a place like (Sweet Kiwi) where you can just hang out and chill,” said Hannah Robillard, 15, of Londonderry.