Maybe it is the icy winds of L.A. winter, but Yogurtland seems a bit lonelier these days. Could it be that frozen yogurt — back from the dead after its ’80s heyday thanks to Korean fro-yo chains — is another fading trend?
You needn’t look far to find one potential heir to the frosty throne. It’s right under Tommy Trojan’s nose. While balancing schoolwork and fraternity activities, Michael Malyn, a sophomore majoring in business administration, has created his own icy concoction known as Whips. What’s more, he’s cooked up a plan to make it big.
What’s a Whip? It’s fruit and nothing else. Using a special curing and freezing technique, Malyn has created an all-fruit sweet treat that resembles a lovechild of sorbet and soft serve.
“At the ice cream store I worked at over the summer, the owners would make [something similar] for us,” Malyn said. “I took a spin off of it and tried to create my own version. People are into health food in L.A. more than where I’m from, so I thought there was a market for it.”
Marketing his creation is a hurdle Malyn has taken after like the business major he is. So far, he has used his friends, Facebook and Trousdale to show off the product.
“I’m actually sponsoring the Southern California Business Film Festival,” Malyn said. “I’m going to be there selling samples and stuff. I’m [also] trying to get a table at the farmers’ market on campus. I’ve been inspired by the way Pinkberry’s done it — they never paid a dime for advertising. All of their stuff was really word of mouth. I think if they can do it, I can do it.”
But the catch about word of mouth advertising is, of course, the need for a good product. After sampling the icy confection, this frozen-treat fanatic can say there is no need to worry.
The first Whip I tried was strawberry-banana — Malyn’s professed favorite. Bananas are sacred in the vegan world for their creamy, dairy-replacing magic, and in Whips they are no different. Though the only ingredients are in the flavor’s title, the banana gives the treat the consistency of a thick soft serve.
The second flavor, melon, is closer to sorbet in texture but is still very thick. As they are sans sugar, there is no need to lick any cloying sweetness off your lips, and the fruity taste is pure and refreshing. The banana gives its flavors a better consistency, but, if you like the non-blended counterparts, any Whip would make a satisfying snack or dessert.
Other fruits Malyn has used include blueberries, peaches and kiwi. He has also played with açai berries and pomegranates, as part of a potential antioxidant line. Usually, he just goes to Ralphs grocery store and experiments with whatever fruits are in season.
“It’s just fruit, which is the awesome thing about it,” Malyn said. “There are no more calories than what’s in the fruit, and no artificial sweeteners or anything. The secret is the way I ripen the fruit. I cure it and freeze it and put it through a restaurant-quality blender to make it come out with the fro-yo consistency.”
Because Whips have no dairy, gluten or soy, they are safe for those with intolerances or allergies. Since they lack refined sugar, diabetics can worry less about blood sugar spikes. Whips are also the answer to faux-fruity indulgences such as Jamba Juice, whose Razzmatazz flavor serves up 74 grams of sugar along with the free calcium boost.
“People don’t realize Jamba Juice uses these bases that have all these added calories and added sugars,” Malyn said. “I take the approach that you can have something that’s yummy and good for you.”
Ultimately, Malyn wants to open his own Whips shop — if interest continues to grow as he hopes. As a business administration major, he knows how critical it is to gather enough interest before making such an investment, and he knows he’s not quite there yet. This summer, he plans to introduce Los Angeles to his unique product and take the slow and steady course toward his ultimate goal. But Malyn still hopes to open a store while he is in college, and his friends are there to help.
“One of my friends volunteered to wear a banana suit,” Malyn said, “but I’m really taking it one step at a time.”
If Whips were to catch on, Malyn would not be the first USC kid to take the food world by storm. Lara Merriken, who graduated in 1986, went on to create LäraBars — which makes close to $20 million per year. So if you pass by the Whips table on Trousdale one day, try them out. The next time you see it, it could be well beyond free-sample status.
“I don’t think I’ll take down Pinkberry,” Malyn said, “but I think I can carve out a niche.”
Mimi Honeycutt is a sophomore majoring in print journalism. Her column “Gingersnaps” runs Wednesdays.