29 March 2011

Kiwi Froyo

Previously called "Sprinkles". The most popular flavours in Philly include vanilla, chocolate, original tart, and cookies and cream. Seasonal flavors turn up every few months.
Owned by Ryan and Matt Mealy, Kiwi is a frozen yoghurt (okay, for this post I will spell it "yogurt") store located on 36th and Chestnut, and I signed up for a Preceptorial lead by them. A preceptorial is basically a 2+ hour class that isn't going to be graded, and I suppose Penn gives them out because it's a way for students to learn things that aren't part of their majors/requirements. For instance, I signed up for a Thought Experiments Preceptorial, which is... well, philosophy, right? There was also one called Wine Tasting, and I got accepted into it but I'm not 21 yet so I can't actually go, legally.

I thought that this Kiwi Preceptorial would be interesting because it would open my eyes up more to the commercial/production aspect of food companies. I also hoped that there'd be a tour of the actual store, including what ingredients are used and how flavours are created. This wasn't the case though; the Preceptorial focused mainly on business. Ryan and Matt are businesspeople. They love food, sure, and they love frozen yogurt, but they are fully focused on the -open-more-stores- & -promote-Kiwi- & -sell-more-. They grew up in a family-business household, they have business degrees, and they decided to open up a frozen yogurt store because frozen yogurt was a business-grabber, with it being touted as "healthy" and all. If, for some reason, the frozen yogurt business dies down (although I highly doubt it, with more and more people believing that frozen yogurt is healthier than ice cream), they claimed that they are ready to pursue a different fad, including non-food ventures.

See, if I was going to open a bakery/patisserie, it'd be because I like food and I love baking and I want to cut out the stigma that pepper, vinegar, and chili "are too weird to put into sweet cookies/cake". So, this Preceptorial showed me why businesses expand and why Aramack and Campbell (and all the other places I applied to for internships) want Management and Marketing degrees. Thanks. Biology (and Chemistry, even though I really don't want to admit that) gets thrown out of the window. Actually, I take that back. I did ask Ryan whether they created their own froyo from scratch, and she said that they currently didn't. "However," she said with a grin, "my husband, who is a scientist, will be working on it at some point, although he doesn't know it yet."

Which goes to show that I should marry a Whartonite. Haha. I think that I prefer Engineers.
The Kiwi story, as I said, starts off from a family business; Ryan and Matt had a bunch of experience helping out in the family furniture company. They claim that each company needs to offer something "new", and to stay within that niche, in order to get recognition. The "new" thing for their furniture company had been that they offered same-day delivery, and the "new" thing for Kiwi is that the frozen yogurt is self-serve. I had never gone to Kiwi before, so, yes, I agree that this is indeed new. Unlike Flurt or any ice cream stores, Kiwi gives you a container and 14 flavours from 14(?) machines to choose from (16 in other Kiwi stores; only Philly has 14 flavours. I think that this is due to the fact that there is not enough wall space to stick in more machines here). For 49c / ounce, you can fill out however much of frozen yogurt you want; you just pull down the lever and let the frozen yogurt flow. Then, you can add toppings/fruit, and you weigh the bowl and its contents, and pay. I suppose this is great because it
1. Offers customers customizable sizes.
2. Offers customers every single flavour in one sitting.
3. Offers customers the ability to have 90% toppings and 10% froyo, if they really wanted to.
4. Means that employees don't have to be trained to make the perfectly pretty froyo. When I was at Carvel, I had to make sure that the ice cream on the cone looked pretty. If it looked wonky, customers would appear a bit upset, and I'd look unprofessional.
5. Means that only 1 container needs to be ordered. There's no such thing as a "small", a "medium", a "large", an "extra large", or a "kiddie cup".
6. Is "new".
Initially, Ryan and Matt were going to Franchise, but they decided that they should just open their own store, and they were going to call it "Wondercream", which has various connotations, one of them being inappropriate and another of them meaning "fat" (if you think about the word "cream", you will instantly think of "fat". Yes, you will, because the Media said so). Technically, they're still registered under the name Wondercream, although the name Kiwi is "fresher" seems to make customers like it more.

Back to the story. Ryan and Matt opened a store in June 2009 in Cherry Hill, NJ, and it was a really tough time up to that point because literally no realtors wanted to rent to a new company. Apparently, that's how it is in the business world; you're of zero value until you stick a dent in your market. (This is where I think the story got confusing, because Ryan said that they had started searching for location, equipment, interior design etc. in "December 2008" and that "after 16-17 months, we finally opened", which would imply that they started in December 2007. Nevertheless, the point is that they took a while to plan everything.) They ended up signing four leases before even opening the first store, and because nearly no-one turned up on their opening day, they had this huge "Grand Opening" and gave out unlimited free ice cream to everyone at their Cherry Hill Mall place. Both these events demonstrate how confident they are; apparently, they gave away 15000 oz of frozen yogurt to ~2000 people. Matt laughed about how it was a huge business risk, but that summer, they averaged 700-800 people per day.

This was a different story in Philly though; when Kiwi opened here in September 2009, the unlimited free froyo idea made people line up and just TAKE AND TAKE and be CRAZY! It's pretty interesting to see both Ryan and Matt laugh at all these events, which one could consider to be "failures" or "setbacks"; again, they're really confident people. They "want to dominate", they say.

So, here is the advertising component of Kiwi from Ryan and Matt. I'm typing it down because it's true, although I'm not sure how much more likely I am to buy froyo from them when I would rather buy bread since I like bread more:
1. Customers are greeted every. Single. Time. //I guess I'm indifferent to this part, unless I get discounts or something if I become a loyal member.
2. 30 toppings. //Thanks for the choices, but I'm not paying 49c for an ounce of marshmallows or an ounce of sprinkles. I'm paying 49c for an ounce of frozen yogurt.
3. Clean. //Whoot!
4. Fruit delivery 3 days a week! Fruit is also freshly cut!//See comment 2
5. Short shelf life of everything; no HFCS, no preservatives. //Whoot!
6. Good place to go for lunch. //But is there a nutrition label somewhere? See, I would pick a sandwich over this because I know that I will get enough protein and iron from eating whole wheat bread. For froyo, how much sugar did you add?

After the preceptorial, we all went to Kiwi to get some froyo. Everyone got 25% off, and I got $5 off because I was one of the lucky 25 people out of the 40 or so people who signed up at the right time. $5 gives ~10 oz of yogurt, and since I actually didn't bring any money with me (hey, with a prepaid meal plan, what else would I be using money for?), it was really useful having a few sets of scales sitting there so I could measure my yogurt content. I ended up with 8.7 oz of various flavours, but not all of them. The restaurant environment was pretty cheerful, but that may have been because of the swarm of people in there from the Preceptorial.
I tried original tart, peanut butter, green tea, chocolate, strawberry, mint, cheesecake, mango, and I want to say pomegranate but I'm not even sure that flavour exists. I just know there's another flavour buried underneath the ones in the pictures. The peanut butter flavour actually tasted like peanut butter, which is a change from "peanut butter flavoured" items such as Clif bars or cookies etc. The green tea flavour was light and poofy, as was the original tart flavour. Actually, all the flavours tasted very light (but NOT BLAND) and watery/icy. Another word I would use to describe Kiwi froyo is "fragile" because it melts mad fast.

Yes, I'll go again next semester, when I don't have a meal plan. I'll do a proper flavour review because I was too preoccupied talking to someone new (who I guess I will never see again, unfortunately) who I had met at the Preceptorial.

1 comment:

  1. It's interesting though, that for a locally-owned store, they don't make their ingredients from scratch, or at least some of them as you've mentioned, such as the frozen yogurt itself. While you didn't get the behind-the-scenes tour as you've expected, I think the perspective from the owners is still quite valuable in the sense that it offers something different. It's true that a lot of food establishments are mostly focused on the operations side, but I think there's still room for experimentation. Kiwi can still try a pepper, vinegar and chili froyo in the future, since their selling point seems to be on the variety of their toppings. And I think a lot of froyo stores already offer self-serve froyos like this one.

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