EATING HEALTHY? THINK POPSICLES!
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.