Culture affects food preferences but in more ways than just preferences for certain frozen yogurt flavors and toppings (aka, licorice frozen yogurt in Denmark, durian frozen yogurt in Southeast Asia). We consider several areas where culture affects frozen yogurt, including preferences for a self-serve vs. full-service format, quantity vs. quality preferences, and attitudes towards local products.
Self-serve vs. full service format
When frozen yogurt 2.0 first became popular in the US around 2006-2008, the model was the one popularized by Pinkberry. Hundreds, if not thousands, of frozen yogurt shops modeled themselves after Pinkberry. There were generally two to four frozen yogurt flavors, a server dispensed your yogurt and consumers were charged per topping.
Self-serve frozen yogurt, popularized by Menchie’s, Yogurtland, Orange Leaf and sweetFrog, quickly became the dominant service model in the US. According to Guidant Financial, 69% of frozen yogurt shops in the US are self-serve (Source: https://www.guidantfinancial.com/article/frozen-yogurt-infographic/)
Customers in the US liked the convenience, greater control and customization of the self-serve format. They found the experience more enjoyable when the swirled it themselves and they no longer had to worry about the dreaded hole in the middle of their frozen yogurt. Shop owners liked the fact that the self-serve model supported lower staffing levels while reducing waiting times for customers. As an added benefit for self-serve shop owners, consumers served themselves larger portions when offered the self-serve options with larger cups (Van Kleef, E., Shimizu, M. and Wansink, B. (2012). Serving bowl selection biases the amount of food served. Journal of Nutrition and Behavior, 44(1), pp. 66-70).
Many of the shop owners outside the US were inspired by having frozen yogurt in the US. Interestingly, self-serve is not the dominant service model for frozen yogurt in many other countries, though many have at least one self-serve frozen yogurt shop. In Europe, most frozen yogurt shops are full service. However, in Australia, many of the frozen yogurt shops are self-serve.
Quantity vs. quality
In the US, frozen yogurt shops typically offer at least 10 flavors a day. Surprisingly, popular European chains like Yogorino (Italy) and Llaollao (Spain) only have one flavor of frozen yogurt (plain/original/natural). Yogorino and Llaollao are known for their premium sauces.
Americans expect lots of choices. After all, the US is the country where the concept of the all you can buffet originated. Americans are used to large portion sizes. People in other countries are used to fewer choices and smaller portions but they tend to emphasize quality and presentation more. For example, in Singapore, Japan and Hong Kong, elaborate frozen yogurt parfaits are assembled with housemade toppings.
Attitude towards local products
Some countries like Greece and Bulgaria have a long history of yogurt consumption. They believe their domestic yogurt is superior and therefore favor locally made frozen yogurt. Frozen yogurt shops in Greece generally serve Greek made frozen yogurt for this reason. Greece is famous all over the world for its yogurt and this is what Chillbox, Greece’s largest frozen yogurt chain, capitalizes on. Italy invented gelato, so many gelaterias in Italy also offer yogurt gelato in soft serve form.
The trend favoring local food, food that is made from local ingredients, is part of a global consumer trend. However, some countries are still seen as experts in certain products, so some consumers may still feel drawn to Greek frozen yogurt, Italian yogurt gelato, or American style frozen yogurt.