Korean-American Frozen Yogurt Wars

Having grown up with the Canadian Yogen Früz chain, we’ve been enjoying frozen yogurt for years now. Most recently, we tasted some pretty decent fro-yo at Yogurtime SoHo (click here), in Hong Kong. Prior to that, we experienced our very first Pinkberry in San Diego, California: Read our review here.

Back in 2005, celebrities like Paris Hilton were raving about their “Crackberry” adoration for Pinkberry. A year later we were in Seoul enjoying South Korea’s über popular Red Mango (read our experience here) frozen yogurt. I remember thinking the company seemed like a copycat of the famous American Pinkberry craze.

In reality, Pinkberry, founded in 2005 by Korean-Americans in California, is the real copycat in this dessert game: Red Mango’s first location opened in Seoul in 2003. Sorry Pinkberry, Red Mango’s got two years on ya! Some people protest that both chains are actually knockoffs of Iceberry, a South Korean *patbingsu chain. Holy fro-yo wars!

*What is patbingsu you ask? Patbingsu is a Korean dessert, originally consisting of shaved ice + sweetened beans. Nowadays, this contemporary dessert is topped with frozen yogurt, sweetened condensed milk, syrups, chewy jellies, cereal flakes and a variety of fruit. Traditional patbingsu is similar to other Asian shaved-ice & fruit and/or bean desserts: like Cendol, a drink found around South East Asia, ABC (Air Batu Campur)/ Ais Kacang in Malaysia and Singapore, Es Teler in Indonesia, Halo-Halo in the Philippines, Nam Kang Sai in Thailand, and Sâm bổ lượng in Vietnam – just to name a few.

Back to frozen yogurt specifically. Now that I’ve had Red Mango in Seattle and various locations in Seoul, and now finally Pinkberry in San Diego, I can tell you which one I like better. Red Mango in Seoul wins hands down. Surprising perhaps, since I recently wrote a post about certain Asian cuisines tasting better in Vancouver. An interesting thing about South Korea is that they have the best tasting fast food, out of any country I’ve traveled. For real. McDonald’s, Krispy Kreme, Coca-Cola, and yes even Red Mango are far superior in the ROK. Pinkberry may be the crackberry of SoCal, but fast food is the crack of Seoul.

Personally, I think Coke tastes better in South Korea than any other country I’ve drank Coca-Cola in, and let me tell you I’ve had Coke in a lot of countries –  the beverage, not the crack 😉 (The UAE had probably my least favorite Coke because it was a tad watery and tasted ‘tinny’. Fiji Coke was up there with South Korea in terms of quality because it was sold in glass bottles and tasted so refreshing under the hot South Pacific sun).

Any Coke/fast food/frozen yogurt connoisseurs out there who can attest to my findings?! Now that Iceberry, Red Mango, and Pinkberry are all well established in both the USA and South Korea, who do you think is the original victor in this fro-yo war?



About Gary & Taya

Founders of 9to5Travel, this jet-setting Canadian husband & wife team scour the globe searching for the best travel destinations the world has to offer. They provide detailed accounts of tropical beaches, gourmet cuisines, and luxury hotels. Learn more about the couple here.

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  • Madewithpink

    Hey Taya, when I was in the US last month we tried Pink Berry, Red Mango & the re-incarnated Canadian chain Yogen Fruz! They’ve brought it back to compete with the other US fro yo chains, and it was really good. They offer the original concept of frozen fruit blended into the frozen yogurt to make your own flavour, but you can also choose to get a plain soft serve fro yo with fresh fruit, or a combination of your own frozen blend topped off with fresh fruit or toppings. It was delicious! As long as a frozen yogurt place has mochi as a topping I’m all for it!

    • Yeah, Yogen Fruz really has stepped up their game haven’t they! We were at their Metrotown location and the decor looked a lot like Pinkberry. And like you said, they offer toppings now in addition to their original blended froyo. But we stuck with their original, and it was creamy blueberry deliciousness. We were even more surprised to see Red Mango in Bellevue Square last summer – we just had to try some…but it still tastes better in Seoul 😉 Sounds like you love mochi, eh? Have you made mochi creations on Madewithpink.com?

  • Jen

    Not to sound like a fast food junkie, but I totally agree that Fast Food taste better in Korea! My personal favorite is Popeyes! Also a ring of sweet potato puree on pizza, an option at many pizza joints, is sooo genius.

    In terms of yogurt wars in Ho Chi Minh City, Yogen Fruz is the best!

    • OMG Popeye’s was the best in Korea!! We had one just down the street from our officetel. I loved their biscuits too..they’d served the with jam. Oooh and Jen, have you been to a MegaBox theater in Korea? They have the BEST caramel popcorn. The should have fast food tours in Seoul, LOL 😉