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Dairy-free fro-yo: TCBY adds another vegan variety of frozen yogurt

TCBY vanilla almond
TCBY is serving a growing group of customers who want dairy-free fro-yo. Photo courtesy of TCBY

Embracing one of the top food trends of 2014, national frozen yogurt chain TCBY has introduced a new vegan version of its frozen yogurt. Called Silk vanilla almond and made in partnership with soy milk company Silk, the frozen yogurt became available as a permanent offering at all 500 TCBY locations last week.

The vanilla follows up TCBY's introduction of its first vegan frozen yogurt in chocolate last summer, a launch so popular that the chain experienced shortages throughout the fall. Now with both vanilla and chocolate on board, TCBY has created the potential for vegan vanilla-chocolate swirls across the land.

 Now with both vanilla and chocolate on board, TCBY has created the potential for vegan vanilla-chocolate swirls across the land.

"We wanted all of our customers to be able to enjoy a classic vanilla frozen yogurt, regardless of dietary constraints," says Dustin Finkel, VP at TCBY's parent company, Famous Brands.

Finkel says the company was inspired by the large number of consumers who shun dairy due to lactose intolerance or ethical issues. They partnered with Silk, which has expanded its catalog to include milks made with almond and coconut. The base of TCBY's frozen yogurt is Silk's almond butter.

The demand in 2013 for the chocolate flavor took TCBY by surprise, Finkel says.

"We underestimated the response we were going to get," he says. "One of the areas that I completely missed the mark on in terms of expectation was the vegan audience.

"I expected a response from health-based and lactose-intolerant consumers. But the greatest response has been from the vegan market, and it's been one of the key drivers in the launch of the vanilla flavor."

Part of what ramped up the fever for the chocolate was its introduction as a limited-edition item, causing some TCBY stores to sell out immediately.

"The Silk chocolate has already leaped to the position of No. 4 or 5 in our library of more than 60 flavors," Finkel says. "With the vanilla launch, we skipped the limited-time portion and put it into our core library right away."

The chain's most popular flavor is called golden vanilla. So why, when it came to the vegan flavors, did it introduce chocolate first?

"The almond butter base is a tough flavor profile to work with," Finkel says. "It has strong taste characteristics that made chocolate easier to formulate. Vanilla took eight months. But we always knew we were going to launch vanilla and chocolate."

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