It has been dubbed the froyo frenzy and it has taken the country by storm. And it all started in Durban with the first Wakaberry self-service frozen yoghurt outlet opening in Florida Road in Morningside.
Less than two and a half years later it has snowballed, becoming such a success that by the end of next month there will be 30 Wakaberry stores across the country, with the demand for more franchises keeping the founders very busy.
Durban couple Michelle and Ken Fourie, with business partner David Clark, founded Wakaberry in May 2010. At the time, they never imagined it would become one of the fastest-growing franchises in the country, spawning a host of competitor brands.
“It has been unbelievable and now barely a month goes by when we are not opening a new store. We have had more than 800 applications from entrepreneurs wanting to open a Wakaberry store,” Michelle Fourie said in an interview at Wakaberry Durban North.
“My husband and I came back to Durban from the US with the idea to bring the froyo concept to our home town with a store or two. We never had the intention back then to take it national. We also had no experience in franchising.
“After we opened the Florida Road store, and the unbelievable response we got from the public, we decided to open a store in Durban North before the end of 2011. Our biggest fans were kids and teenagers.
“It was during that summer that we realised we were on to something bigger here, when many of the Gauteng tourists who had experienced Wakaberry in Durban wanted to know if we had stores in Joburg.
“We opened our first store in Lonehill in Joburg, now we have seven, with more on the way. We also have stores in Cape Town and Bloemfontein, and this month opened our first two in the Eastern Cape.”
As part of efforts to secure good locations, Wakaberry had a stand at the South African Council of Shopping Centres’ annual conference and exhibition in Sandton last month.
Frozen yoghurt brands were a big new trend this year, with competitors such as Bella & Boo also at the event.
Fourie said they wanted Wakaberry to stay true to the experience and not have a store on every street corner or in every shopping centre. “We believe only about 200 of these applications are in good and strategic locations for Wakaberry,” she said.
Fourie said that despite several new brands having come on to the market, the Wakaberry brand had pioneered the concept in South Africa.
“We pride ourselves on the fact that we offer an all-natural frozen yoghurt product that is made from organic milk and sourced locally.”
Fourie said before she and her husband came back to South Africa, they carried out intenstive research and knew they would set out to run their own business. Ken, an architect, did the store design and they came up with the name from the World Cup song Waka Waka.
She said a significant avenue in growing the Wakaberry brand was through social media. It had a substantial following on Facebook (more than 136000 likes) and Twitter (more than 19000 followers).