EAT­ING HEALTHY? THINK POP­SI­CLES!

THISDAY Style - - FRONT PAGE - BY AY­O­DEJI ROTINWA

With a diet choked with carbs, fats and oils, it is quite frankly a mir­a­cle that obe­sity isn’t a more per­va­sive con­di­tion in Nige­ria. Eat­ing healthy in these parts is tough. Yes, you’re prob­a­bly al­ready think­ing what have pop­si­cles got to do with any­thing? It is a widely ac­cepted truth in diet and nu­tri­tion science that snacks in be­tween meals can lead to weight gain. This is es­pe­cially true in Nige­ria, as we have such a dizzy­ing ar­ray of snacks to choose from. So in be­tween meals, you’re eat­ing small chops, cakes, chin chins, roasted plan­tains, corn, and so on and so forth. And you won­der why you’re not los­ing weight. A healthy op­tion to eat­ing healthy while en­joy­ing a tasty snack I re­cently dis­cov­ered is the Pop­si­cle. And not just any kind: Royal Pops! I came upon this snack af­ter rec­om­men­da­tion by a friend. A few things I learned (some of which sur­prised me) about this prod­uct: • It is made fresh in Nige­ria, with lo­cally sourced fruits and nat­u­ral in­gre­di­ents. Or­ange, Man­goes, Pineap­ples and more they have a wide range! • Re­ally wide: It has over 20 flavours with some in­fused with al­co­hol. Eat­ing healthy and en­joy­ing a bit of al­co­hol truly never felt and tasted so good. No guilt here! There are also fruit pops, yo­gurt pops, creamy pops. • It has less than 100 calo­ries and great for if you are try­ing to stay fit! (Say no to Chin Chin!) • It is a fun and healthy re­fresh­ment al­ter­na­tive to ice cream, yo­gurt, fruit, smooth­ies, bev­er­ages, and more. It sat­is­fies sweet crav­ings and the best thing to have when it’s hot out­side. Also, each pop is made of the daily rec­om­mended fruit serv­ing. • It is not for your kids alone! Adults are more than wel­come to try it, es­pe­cially the Pop­tails *wink wink* Be­ing cu­ri­ous about this fas­ci­nat­ing prod­uct, I de­cided to reach out, speak to and read up on Lola Okunola, the founder of the com­pany that pro­duces this sweet treat and here’s how it came to­gether: What was your his­tory with pop­si­cles be­fore start­ing a busi­ness around it, was it some­thing you had reg­u­larly? I’ve al­ways loved pop­si­cles. In fact I used to make pop­si­cles out of Kool Aid, I would pack­age them and sell them to the store next store when I was 13. I moved to Nige­ria af­ter 14 years of work­ing abroad. Af­ter a year, I started hav­ing is­sues with the food be­cause of my sen­si­tive stom­ach. Dur­ing the di­ag­no­sis process I couldn’t eat solid food. So, a friend of mine brought me pop­si­cles. A few nights later, I could barely sleep due to some dis­com­fort and I had an epiphany. I’m go­ing to start mak­ing pop­si­cles. I started off mak­ing some recipes and shar­ing with fam­ily and friends. It was such a hit with them that I com­mit­ted to go­ing all the way. I wanted to be great at it. I wanted it to be in the stores. I wanted to make pop­si­cles that par­ents en­joyed and bought for their chil­dren. I wanted to have a prod­uct that was known. For all this to hap­pen I needed to be­come an ex­pert and that in­volved a great deal of train­ing! I did my re­search and found part­ners and com­pa­nies to work with in the US. When I got back to La­gos, I started my busi­ness with an or­der for 10 pieces from a friend who told an­other friend. Things just snow­balled af­ter that. We are now of­fi­cially stocked in 16 stores. It has been ex­tremely hard work for the past 4 years but it has been worth it.

How would you de­scribe the ex­pe­ri­ence of a Pop­si­cle and how it dif­fers from ev­ery other snack / bev­er­age?

Pop­si­cles are re­fresh­ing be­cause of their frozen na­ture. Es­pe­cially our pop­si­cles be­cause they are made of fresh fruits and nat­u­ral in­gre­di­ents.

How does your back­ground in In­for­ma­tion Sys­tems and Pub­lic Health come to play – if at all – in how you run your busi­ness? What ad­van­tages would you say this back­ground has given you?

My back­ground in Pub­lic Health sparked my in­ter­est in well­ness. I learned the im­por­tance of healthy eat­ing and gained my over­all hard work­ing ethic from years of work­ing in IT and Pub­lic Health.

Do you reckon mov­ing back af­forded you the op­por­tu­nity to change ca­reer track and jump into a busi­ness, how did you come to the de­ci­sion of start­ing Roy­alPops; if you de­scribe the day the thought first came, how you went about it: re­search, con­sul­ta­tions, e.t.c.

I saw a need when I moved to Nige­ria and I de­cided to fill it. At the time there weren’t any healthy frozen treats that were lo­cally made. I was com­ing out of a bout with stom­ach is­sues and was in the process of chang­ing my diet to a health­ier one. I started make small batches of pop­si­cles as a treat for my fam­ily and friends and through word of mouth peo­ple started call­ing me to or­der them. I re­al­ized that there was a real de­mand and op­por­tu­nity so I de­cided to get some train­ing, pur­chase equip­ment to pro­duce large quan­ti­ties, and ap­ply for a NAFDAC li­cense.

Take me through the pro­duc­tion process of Royal Pops, how do you source your fruits and then flavours?

We source most of our fruits lo­cally. We started out with 4 standard flavours and now we have over 20 flavours of which in­clude al­co­hol in­fused pops (pop­tails). We pro­duce about 12,000 pop­si­cles a month. We process sacks and sacks of or­anges, man­goes, pineap­ples, and more. We mix our flavours, freeze them, and pack­age them. We have our fruit pops, yo­gurt pops, creamy pops, and pop­tails.

How would Royal Pops play into a fit­ness diet, would one take in be­tween smaller meals; or what might you rec­om­mend?

All our pops are less than 100 calo­ries so they are a great snack if you’re try­ing to stay fit. They are great af­ter a meal and just whenever you feel like. Some peo­ple have them stocked up in their freez­ers at home too. They are also a great night time snack.

JOSELYN DU­MAS

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