Fresh from the freezer
Pop gourmet puts the “pop” in popular
By Elyssa Schwartz
since the frozen yogurt craze nearly melted away, the local business scene for sweet treats has been long overdue for a makeover. Perhaps, it was in need of a concept so new, that it didn’t even exist in South Florida – let alone anywhere in the U.S. –
Ana and Armando Marques and their 19-year-old daughter, Mariana, have been serving decadent fruit-based ice pops at Palecolé, their popular confectionery in Brazil, for the last two years. With 60 successful franchises, the family took a chance and brought the concept to the States. Although the store itself proved to be fruitful as is (pardon the pun), the Marqueses decided it was appropriate to give their new sweet spot a brand-new name: Pop Gourmet.
In February, the first-ever U.S. location opened in Coconut Creek on Lyons Road bordering the Sawgrass Expressway, making it a simple jaunt for Creek, Parkland and Coral Springs residents. Mariana says that the family chose South Florida for their newest location because of its warm climate. They felt that their ice pops would make for a refreshing treat to beat the heat.
“We’re going to bring some flavors from Brazil and create some here,” Mariana says. “We researched the flavors we wanted to sell here because there are a lot of Brazilian flavors that people here don’t know. It’s a different culture.”
The Marques family was quick to learn that the recipe for opening a winning food spot in America included understanding their clientele’s inevitable dietary restrictions. “There’s a lot of people that can’t drink milk,” says Mariana. “My dad is thinking about doing something sweet with fruit without milk.”
And while Mariana is the brain behind “99.9 percent” of the flavors, she teamed up with her dad to create several new “healthy” flavors. Mariana feels confident that parents won’t feel bad about treating their kids with these better-for-you alternatives. “People can eat things that are a little bit sweeter without feeling guilty,” she says.
With a common base made from fruit, milk, water and pure cane sugar, the remaining ingredients depend on the individual pop. For example, the Nido with Nutella ice pop consists of the famous hazelnut spread and sour cream. Another fan favorite is a blend of chocolate and brigadeiro (a bite-sized Brazilian delicacy covered in sprinkles, similar to what we consider to be a chocolate truffle). “I never met someone that does not like brigadeiro,” Mariana says.
From start to finish, making the ice pops is a lengthy process. Armando takes over the bulk of Pop Gourmet’s kitchen duties and handcrafts each pop one by one. After juicing the fruit, he blends the fresh juice with milk. Then, the special fillings (fruit, brigadeiro, etc.) are placed inside the popsicle mold and covered with the liquid mixture. Finally, the tray is put into the freezer. “Natural ingredients are the key,” Mariana says. “The sugar we use in all the pops is derived directly from the sugar cane.”
Each ice pop is priced less than $5, depending on the flavor and size. Mariana compares the standard ice pop to the size of an iPhone 6. The kids pop will be a bit smaller.
As Pop Gourmet continues to pop, the Marqueses plan to add to their menu – something they’ve yet to try in Brazil. “We have plans to make smoothies and little healthy things like natural sandwiches, lemonade, juice and maybe salads,” Mariana says.
The ambitious family foresees a quick expansion and anticipates 40 franchises in the U.S. within the next five years.
“The main reason why were doing this is to make people healthy,” Mariana says. “People think, ‘You’re a vegan, you can’t eat anything sweet’ or ‘You’re healthy you can’t eat this.’ Yeah, you can. And we are proving that to them.”
Mariana’s top picks & tips
What are your top three favorite flavors?
Lemon Cookie, Strawberry, and Nido with Nutella.
What is your dream flavor?
A tropical flavor with a lot of fruit in it – kind of like a detox ice pop.
What’s your tip on how to recover from brain freeze?
Spit out the offending food. Not very attractive, but neither is your scrunched up brain freeze face. Or, open your mouth and press your thumb on the roof of your mouth to warm it.
6111 Lyons Road • 786.716.3784 • popgourmet.net