There’s a lot of goodness in Jonny Pops, all-natural frozen treats made with real fruit and cream (no artificial colors, flavors or stabilizer).
“You can feel good about eating a Jonny Pop,” said Erik Brust, CEO, who founded the company to do good, too. “We want to make the world a better place, one pop at a time,” he said. A portion of sales goes to the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, a national leader in treatment and recovery.
“I come from a family of entrepreneurs. It’s just what we do,” he said. “When Jonathan and I began our research, the only frozen treats on the market were artificially flavored or decadent and heavy. We knew we could make something healthy and good.”
But the dream was delayed when Jonathan, who struggled with addiction, died of a drug overdose.
Brust, then a sophomore at St. Olaf College, enlisted his investment club friends to help him make the vision real and honor Jonathan’s memory. To create the treats, Brust and his friends went through a lot of trial and error, getting things right.
“We were three guys with a blender in the shared kitchen of our college dorm that housed 200 residents,” he said. “We used tons of fruit and vats of cream and made huge messes.” Their test products, frozen in ice trays, were sampled among their peers.
“You could say we failed our way forward,” Brust said. “Some of the stuff was pretty awful.”
But persistence and market research paid off. Before long, they had college-tested prototypes ready to manufacture. After securing the necessary wholesale licenses, they rented a certified kitchen in the basement of an event center near school and began manufacturing Jonny Pops, named for Jonathan. The pops were a hit during finals week.
That summer, they delivered Jonny Pops in the back of an old station wagon to the Minnesota Zoo, Kowalski’s markets and farmers markets. “The beautiful thing about running this business while still in college is that it fit the school year. We could shut it down in the winter when we were super-busy with classes,” Brust said.
Today, you can find Jonny Pops in more than 2,000 retail outlets, including supermarkets, co-ops, convenience and specialty stores. Approved as a “Smart Snack,” Jonny Pops will soon be available in more than 500 schools statewide. Connor Wray, one of the original investment club members, continues to work with Brust at Jonny Pops.
The company’s success is due no doubt to the product’s quality. “We’ve worked hard to have the right balance of real fresh fruit and creaminess,” Brust said. “It’s all about the taste and texture; it’s a smoothie on a stick.”
Jonny Pops are available in seven flavors: Strawberries & Cream, Strawberry Banana & Cream, Pineapple Coconut & Cream, Raspberries, Blueberries & Cream, Mango & Cream, Coffee Chocolate & Cream, and Banana Cinnamon Cream. Each stick is printed with suggestions for acts of kindness: “Share a smile,” “Give a compliment” and “Give someone a thumbs up,” to name a few.
“We’re always seeking new ‘deeds’ to print from contributors to our Facebook page,” Brust said. “We want to pay it forward.”