Fresh from a recapitalization by new owners, the TCBY and Mrs. Fields brands are heading into a year of innovative products, new franchising opportunities and building their presence in grocery stores.
Tim Casey, president and chief executive of Mrs. Fields Famous Brands, franchisor of the 580-unit TCBY frozen yogurt and 337-unit Mrs. Fields cookies chains, spoke with Nation’s Restaurant News about new growth opportunities for the Salt Lake City-based company, which last month engaged in a recapitalization that brought in private-equity firm Z Capital Partners as a majority owner, along with existing stakeholder The Carlyle Group.
The company began working on re-energizing the brands last year, Casey said. TCBY debuted a new self-serve prototype as well as an updated design, logo and brand identity.
The nearly fully franchised chain also launched a more healthful Super Fro-Yo product. An area developer in Texas has committed to opening 200 locations, aiming for second-tier cities, beginning with Tyler. The brand has additional agreements with other developers to expand in Colorado and the Carolinas.
And there’s more to come, according to the company. Here’s what Casey said about the year ahead for TCBY and Mrs. Fields.
What will the new financing do for the two brands?
It really allows us to reinvest in innovation and product innovation and think about how we can evolve this space going forward.
You have said this will be a “year of flavor and delight” for TCBY. What did you mean by that?
TCBY had a great year last year. We started working with more franchisees than we have in recent years. The rebranding and self-serve concept have been appealing and compelling for franchisees and consumers.
I think everyone knows TCBY was really founded on taste, flavor and innovation. We are now going to be putting an incredible amount of focus on innovation and flavors.
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We just announced that we will be launching a new soft-serve Greek yogurt in TCBY stores in April, and I believe we are first to do that in this space. It really lives up to the taste and flavor heritage of the brand, but it’s a product that has more protein. People are seeing it as a meal solution or alternative. It will also be available as a Super Fro-Yo.
We will also be working with a licensing partner, and you will be seeing the TCBY brand in grocery stores and other retailers in spring. Details will be finalized in the next couple weeks, but we couldn’t be more excited about it. I believe this is the first real opportunity to penetrate the retail channel in a significant way.
What about Mrs. Fields?
We’ll be investing in flavor and innovation for that channel as well. We are launching a new Mrs. Fields kiosk strategy.
We’ve already seen a lot of interest in malls, but now we’re seeing it also from hospital spaces and offices. I’m finalizing the design of that kiosk and that should be done by end of January.
The kiosk will also have coffee as part of the brand. It’ll be a Mrs. Fields coffee with flavors that will coincide with the flavors of the cookies. Some stores have been rolling out coffee over the past five or six months and consumer response has been strong.
We may have some news about coffee in [grocery] stores as well. The way consumers enjoy coffee today is really evolving. We have some pretty interesting solutions to bring to the consumer when it comes to coffee and the retail channels. We will be announcing what that looks like in the next 90 days or so.
Mrs. Fields also has a gifting channel, and we just came off one of the best retail seasons we’ve ever had. The cookie products will also be in the majority of Walmart stores this year. These are tremendous opportunities that we can capitalize and build on.
Can you say what else might be coming down the road?
My team and I can’t go into a lot of detail yet, so I’m going to be cautious. They are currently on a four-day trip and the focus will be working with an incredibly valued, credible and exceptional third party to work on some really innovative ideas for both brands.
I already have a sense of where that meeting is going, and it’s a bit of a teaser. But for the next four days we’ll be looking at innovation over the next four to five years and what that will look like — not only cookies, yogurt and baked goods, but where the consumer wants these brands to go to provide solutions for their lifestyles.
Are there any changes to management with the new owners?
It’s always going to be an evolving process. My objective is to make sure my leadership team is lined up with our business strategy.