Monday, October 13, 2008

Tasti D-Lite

As a massive frozen yogurt wave overtakes Manhattan, led by Pinkberry, Red Mango, and the many, many others, is "dairy-based frozen dessert" pioneer and New York native Tasti D-Lite drowning?

Several locations around town have recently changed to The Lite Choice, which looks a lot like Tasti D-Lite, but isn't. I asked the salesperson in one of the TLCs what was going on and she told me the owner of these franchise locations has bought them from Tasti D-Lite and converted them into his own brand. According to Food Mayhem, this includes 16 stores around town.

Founded in 1987 by Celeste Carlesimo and her father, Louis, Tasti D-Lite is a survivor from the late-80s fro-yo boom, which included such dimly remembered contenders as Skimpy Treat, Skinny Dip, Yo Cream, and the unfortunately amphibian-sounding Frogurt.

As a writer for the Columbia Spectator put it, "Tasti D-Lite is the New York original--not only was the company founded in the city, but it has pioneered a love affair between New Yorkers and fake ice cream." So maybe Tasti is to blame for today's bloody fro-yo wars, in which the originator is not going down without a fight.

The company was bought last year by the guy behind Mail Boxes Etc. and I Can't Believe It's Yogurt. He's going after LA's Pinkberry and South Korea's Red Mango by invading their home territories, expanding Tasti D-Lite into LA and South Korea. And he's trying to revive Tasti's dusty image by sprucing up old stores and running "new" ads like this one:

They've also employed "tasteologists" to help you with your many flavor questions, whatever those might be.

If I were forced to root for someone in the fro-yo wars, I guess I'd have to go with the underdog, senior-citizen Tasti. Though they're no longer locally owned, they still bring to mind a scruffy city chain, dingy with the sepia tint of the 1980s, and the inspiration for a famous episode of Seinfeld:

Now and then, I like to cover "vanishing" chains, just so anonymous commenters can call me hypocritical (ambivalent is more accurate). Here are some more:


Anonymous said...

Interesting...I hadn't even noticed the name change. Jeez.

Remember the "investigative" piece the Times did in 2002?

"At two prominent chains, Tasti D-Lite and CremaLita, the soft-serve dessert has far more calories and often a higher fat content than advertised, according to tests administered for the Dining section."

And whatever happened to CremaLita? (Great name! Ack.)

Anonymous said...

I remember when Carvel was a local chain and Tom Carvel did the awkward commercials himself. "Cookie Puss" by the Beastie Boys is a great record!

bj.emerson said...

Allow me to provide some additional information. The TLC stores are no longer licensed Tasti D-Lite stores. Tasti D-Lite mutually agreed with the owners of these stores to terminate the Tasti D-Lite license agreements. These stores are owned and operated by an independent third party, separate and apart from Tasti D-Lite. The Tasti D-Lite product is not and will no longer be offered at these locations.

We are excited about the future expansion plans for Tasti D-Lite in New York City; especially all of the refreshed locations and our two new flagship Centers located at 60th & Broadway and at the Empire State Building. See this page for more info:
In addition, Tasti D-Lite Centers are now being offered worldwide under our new and exciting business format franchise model. Rest assured, we will continue to expand throughout New York City and across the globe to bring a celebration of life and health to a community near you.

Join our Facebook "Fan" page to receive updates, or follow us on Twitter.

Unknown said...

I miss TastiDlite, as I am lactose intolerant and was able to "tolerate" TastiDlite. I can't eat the new stuff...

Anonymous said...

I tried Tasti D-Lite only once.

It was like eating nothing--that is to say, there was so little flavor, I found it entirely unworthwhile (*YAWN!*).

On the other hand, I've tried Red Cherry (I've never tried Red Mango or Pinkberry). WONDERFUL!

Anonymous said...

Your posting was very interesting as were some of the comments. The Lite Choice was formulated and created by two former Tasti licensees who then converted their seven owned locations in Manhattan to The Lite Choice the week of September 12, 2008 TLC is an "all-natural", lite, low fat soft serve made from farm-fresh dairy and offers more than 28 organic flavors. In just 4 short months, The Lite Choice has grown to 19 locations throughout Manhattan, Long Island, Ct and NJ and the company is projecting that 30 locations will be serving The Lite Choice by this summer.

Anonymous said...

The original owner of Tasti-Dlite, Celeste Carlessimo, still owns and operates a few locations in Manhattan. 86th Street and Lexington Avenue and a few others around town. I am a loyal customer of the brand. The flavors are great and the new decor looks fresh. Any other, new yogurt chains like "TLC" are just dying and will eventually vanish like the others. The guys that started the "The Light Choice" yogurt stores separated from Tasti-Dlite and are using a different yogurt product that is awful! Now they have stores that the public has never heard of, with yogurt that stinks. It's called "brand equity" and they don't have it. Sorry "The Light Choice" guys.

Anonymous said...

I have probably been here over 100 times since it opened/converted (from previous Tasti D) and spent well over hundreds of dollars. I would have to say after having sampled over 20 different frozen yogurt shops, The Lite Choice is my favorite. It has a distinct taste and texture. I enjoy the fact that they use Organic flavors. It makes a big difference.

Anonymous said...

let me clarify for the record. as the former owner of skimpy treat let me tell you the REAL story. i started by selling my skimpy treat at my retail store. peopple would line up outside my restaurant (peter pan) to buy it. celeste the former owner of tasti delight went into my trash a pulled pulled out a container that my product came in and it listed my manufacturer. she went to the dairy that made my product and copied my ingredients and put a different label on the product calling it tasti delight (she was successful because she lied about the calorie count and people believed it. this is fact not fiction.