Having swerved past Mars and defeated Arla, Yog has big plans for its frozen yoghurt, including new listings and a global franchise
It’s not often that a David takes on a Goliath and survives. To do it twice is even more remarkable. Now, after frozen yoghurt brand Yog overcame fmcg behemoths Mars and Arla in separate trademark disputes, it’s got ambitious plans to become a giant in its own right.
It’s a classic entrepreneurial tale. After testing their concept on the UK festival scene in 2007, co-founders Ersen Salih and Rebecca McGuire - a former Savile Row tailor and marketer - opened their first retail outlet in the spring of 2008 in Brent Cross, inspired by McGuire’s university days eating frozen yoghurt at The Canadian Muffin Co in Plymouth and Salih’s Turkish-Cypriot heritage.
It wasn’t long before it hit its first obstacle. Originally called Berryo, the founders changed the name to Yog after Mars objected - the multinational having already registered a product trademark named Berrio.
Even worse was to come shortly. After Yog opened its third store in Watford in 2009, Scandinavian dairy giant Arla complained that the Yog trademark was too similar to two Yoggi trademarks it held. This time, Yog’s founders refused to back down and were eventually vindicated as the Intellectual Property Office dismissed Arla’s complaint in September 2010.
Despite winning, it was still a bruising experience. “It almost turned our hair grey.” And a siege mentality pervades at Yog’s Fitzrovia HQ.
Fortunately, fortune has also looked more kindly on the duo. By the time the brand secured its first listings in Wholefoods last September, the concept of frozen yoghurt in the UK was really catching on. As well as other independents such as Lick, Snog, Yogland and Yogberries springing up in competition, the launch of Ben & Jerry’s frozen yoghurt in 2009, has helped bring critical mass and the attention of the multiples. Today the market is worth £6.6m [Nielsen 52w/e 24 December 2011], but Yeo Valley’s relaunch of its frozen yoghurt range last March and R&R Ice Cream’s joint venture frozen yoghurt brand, called Yoomoo, launched this month, should boost sales.
Yog’s founders are now moving the brand to another level, gaining more listings with the mults and opening more retail outlets. The latest stockist is Waitrose (October 2011), adding to the take-home products it sells in its six own six stores. But the bigger item on the Yog’s ‘to do’ list is to expand the brand’s retail empire through a franchising model with Odeon Cinemas. “Franchising is a quicker and easier way of expanding the brand rather than waiting to make profits and opening stores one at a time,” says McGuire. “Odeon don’t see us as a threat to Ben & Jerry’s [which Yog will sit alongside in the cinemas] but as a complimentary offer,” she adds.
The first Odeon Yog will be in Greenwich, with around ten opening in the next two years. “Yog will be an international brand in five years,” she claims.
With its rivals growing fast Yog still has a fight on its hands. “There’s a real copycat effect we’ve seen going on since we started in 2008,” says McGuire. And with Unilever for competition and Waitrose as a customer, Yog resides in the Land of the Giants.
Still, judging by the brand’s previous form, you wouldn’t bet against it, would you?