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2 millennials are disrupting the multibillion-dollar dessert industry

Yasso is shaking up the multibillion-dollar dessert industry with its low-calorie frozen Greek yogurt bars. Two childhood friends, Drew Harrington and Amanda Klane, founded the company in 2011, and in just five years, the brand’s popularity has skyrocketed. Yasso products are sold in 15,000 stores nationwide, including big names like Target (TGT), Kroger (KR), Walmart (WMT) and Publix.

“Amanda was working for her father in the food industry representing a few health and wellness brands in the Greek yogurt set, and the idea came up ‘Hey, no one has made it frozen. Is there an opportunity to disrupt the dessert category?’ We looked at each other and said let’s run with it,” Yasso co-founder Drew Harrington told Yahoo Finance’s Seana Smith in the video above.

Yasso is currently the fastest-growing brand among the top-15 frozen novelty dessert brands in the US, and the only start-up business in the top 40. While some may say Harrington and Klane’s timing was perfect, it takes a little more than a good idea and luck to start a successful company. As a matter of face, about nine out of 10 startups fail, and according to CBInsights, the leading causes are no market need (42%), running out of cash (29%) or not the right team (23%).

So how did Yasso defy the 90% failure rate among startups?

“When we started the company we saw a void in the frozen novelty category,” Klane said. “You had your high-fat, super premium people on one side and then your diet brands on the other, but no one was attacking the zone in the middle. No one was delivering on clean ingredients with a better nutritional label but tastes like ice cream.”

It’s the combination of healthy and tasty that’s appealing to taste buds nationwide. Yasso is expecting to generate revenue well over $50 million in 2016, giving the independently owned start-up a 60% compound annual growth rate since inception. The brand launched ice cream-centric flavor offerings in 2013 and now offers 15 total products in bar and stick format that range from 80-150 calories each.

Ever since the idea for Yasso was conceived in 2009, Harrington and Klane have been forced to think outside the box in order to compete with deep-rooted and deep-pocketed competitors. “A big part of it is the packaging on the shelf and what we stand for,” said Harrington of Yasso’s ability to build its brand and attract new customers. “We’ve done out-of-store marketing efforts. We’ve hit the street with free samples and have done events all across the country … For a lot of small brands, I think word of mouth and the surprising delight to get a free sample has worked wonders for us.”

A little free publicity is always a welcome, too. On June 21, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady posted a photo on Facebook of his two kids standing next to his freezer, with the family dog inside. The freezer was stacked with Yasso’s Greek frozen yogurt pops. After the photo was posted, fans quickly took note of the Brady family’s dessert of choice. Traffic to Yasso’s website surged, causing the site to temporarily crash.

Screen Shot 2016-08-12 at 4.02.45 PM
Screen Shot 2016-08-12 at 4.02.45 PM

While Brady’s post helped Yasso become more of a household name, the startup still has a way to go to catch up with some of the industry’s biggest players. But who doesn’t love an amazing underdog tale?

“We’re in conventional retail stores so we’re going up against giants,” Harrington said. “Internally, we’re proud of that. We consider it a David versus Goliath story. When you’re going up against [big competitors], they have really big dollars, so you’ve got to be nimble.”

Yasso is keeping the details of its future products under wraps, but is planning for new flavors and forms in 2017.