Combine four St. Olaf students, bushels of fresh fruit, and a pay-it-forward mission to get JonnyPops, a small Minnesota company cranking out creamy gourmet popsicles. Founded in 2011 by a group of college sophomores (none of whom, incidentally, majored in business), JonnyPops is getting off the ground in a big way now that three of its founders are devoting themselves to the company full time.
CEO Erik Brust pitched the business idea to his friends after his cousin Jonathan (the company’s namesake) passed away from a drug overdose. The event spurred Brust’s idea that the company should make a good-for-you snack and partner with the Hazelden Foundation for drug and alcohol rehabilitation to donate a portion of the proceeds from each popsicle sale.
Sold in just two dozen spots its first summer, the farmers’ market favorite is branching out: JonnyPops can now be found in several thousand locations throughout the Twin Cities, with a reach stretching to Wisconsin and Chicago. This summer marks a foray into Lunds, Byerly’s, and Kowalski’s stores, as well as several co-ops and gas station novelty cases (improving road-trip eats for foodies everywhere). And the guys will have carts at the State Fair this summer, making them some of the youngest-ever vendors to stuff Minnesotans silly at the 12-day event.
So why peddle popsicles?
“The ice cream novelty world hasn’t really changed much in the last 20 years. Blending fresh fruit and cream was something healthy and different that we could do,” says Brust, who oversees production at the St. Louis Park factory along with his cofounders. “But what I really liked about it is that popsicles are just something people enjoy—it brings a smile to their face.”
That smile is echoed by the company’s cheery logo, emblazoned at the bottom of each popsicle stick. But you have to finish your Merry Mountain Berry-or-Choco Latte-flavored treat to get to the moral message of your dessert: Each stick is printed with a good deed, making every popsicle-gobbler a part of the JonnyPops mission to create “A Better Pop for a Better World.”
That’s pretty sweet.