Frozen Fruit Bar Entrepreneurs Working To Bring Attention To Drug Addiction
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — An idea that started in a college dorm room has grown into a fruitful business for three recent college graduates.
JonnyPops frozen fruit bars are made in St. Louis Park, and they will make their debut as one of the new State Fair foods later this summer.
Erik Brust, Jamie Marshall, and Connor Wray are three friends, roommates and business partners taking a bite out of the frozen treat market.
“We call them all-natural fruit and cream bars,” Marshall said.
They tout fresh, simple ingredients: fruit, cream, sugar, water, and salt.
“The product is something special, and the story is something special,” Marshall said.
Six weeks ago the trio graduated from St. Olaf College.
The computer science, economics, and music majors got into the frozen treat business as sophomores.
“I have to admit I was skeptical at first,” Wray said. “It wasn’t exactly the dream business opportunity, moving to Silicon Valley or something like that.”
They spent months developing a recipe with a blender and ice cube trays.
“Heading to the basement kitchen next to the people cooking their ramen noodles, we were making prototype Jonny Pops,” Marshall said. “That’s where it all started.”
The name Jonny Pops is a story in itself.
“Mostly inspired by my cousin,” Brust said.
He and his cousin Jonathan Jeffrey, a graduate of Orono High School, initially came up with the idea.
He died soon after of drug addiction.
In his memory, a portion of every sale goes to Hazelden.
“Addiction is something that doesn’t get a lot of attention usually,” Brust said. “It’s a dark horse, it’s definitely something we feel we can jump in and help out with.”
In three years, the trio went from selling JonnyPops at two locations to 2,000 in seven states.
Now they’re hoping to take their sweet mission nationwide.
“Some people ask: Did you have any idea it would be so successful? And, yeah, kind of, that’s what we were shooting for all along,” Marshall said.
JonnyPops are sold at farmers markets, gas stations, and, most recently, at Lunds, Byerly’s and Kowalski’s grocery stores.
They come in four flavors, Summer Strawberry is their best seller.
Later this summer, they will debut a new flavor at the State Fair, Snelling Strawberry Rhubarb.
The JonnyPops booth will be in the new Westend Market.