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Frozen Yogurt Wars Cont.: Pinkberry's Swirly Past

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Pinkberry (left) and Korean Red Mango (Pinkberry photo: Flickr)

Do we care about Pinkberry anymore? We've been a little light on the Frozen Yogurt War front lately; really, it's almost too ginormous to keep up with any more. But we heard this crazy rumor about Pinkberry and owner Shelly Hwang the other day that's just too good to keep down. No, it will not reveal what the heck is in the Crackberry; like it even matters to those who love it. But let's go back a bit. Everyone knows that Pinkberry started in West Hollywood, but the product itself probably originated in Korea, where companies like Red Mango already had a strong hold on the tangy froyo market. Then Pinkberry started oozing across the city and now the country, spawning copycats and similar concepts along the way. But where did the Pinkberry idea really first gestate? Where did those young Korean-American entrepreneurs come up with such a clever concept and addictive frozen treat? Italy, as co-owner Young Lee says? More likely Red Mango.

OK, this isn't new new, but apparently there's a story floating around the Korean community that co-creator Shelly Hwang was in South Korea in 2003 or 2004, and that she either worked in a Red Mango shop or befriended a Red Mango employee and learned all about Korean frozen yogurt. Pinkberry debuted in 2005. The other Pinkberry owner, Lee, always said the yogurt recipe was his idea, something he tried to copy after a trip to a Vienna gelato shop. Maybe the rumors started when Red Mango came to the U.S. a few months ago, but Pinkberry reportedly says the idea in no way came from Korea. If Hwang worked for Red Mango, wouldn't there be a record of her employment, and wouldn't that be grounds for frozen yogurt espionage? A pinkberry rep tells us: "That rumor is absolutely and unequivocally false." But would they/could they admit it?

Really, the tangy treat had to come from somewhere. The Pinkberry "swirly goodness" bares little resemblance to yogurt-flavored gelato Lee says inspired him (really...go to Gail Silverton's Gelato Bar in Studio City and you'll see the difference), and we're pretty sure there isn't green tea gelato topped with Fruity Pebbles or mochi in Vienna. Could this be why Pinkberry keeps the recipe so secret, so no one can trace it back to an original recipe? And the whole design and "lifestyle" concept that's made Pinkberry as ubiquitious (and soon to be even more so) as Starbucks is eerily similar to that of the original Red Mango in Korea. So tell us again why Pinkberry could sue Kiwiberri for trademark infringement? And more importantly, why didn't Red Mango sue Pinkberry for the same? Just sayin.
· The Yogurt Wars Part I: Red Mango Opens in May [~ELA~]
· The Yogurt Wars Part II: Red Mango vs. Pinkberry, a Study in Pictures [~ELA~]
· It came from Los Angeles [CNN.com/Fortune]
· Frozen Yogurt Wars Cont.: Pinkberry Gets Millions [~ELA~]
· The Frozen Yogurt War in All Its Glory [~ELA~]

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