By Vanessa Packer
Photography By Sasha Israel
“WHAT’S AMAZING ABOUT THIS PRODUCT, IS THAT IT’S STILL A DELICIOUS FROZEN DESSERT BUT IT HAS NUTRITIONAL AND FUNCTIONAL BENEFITS,” explains Sophie Milrom founder and creator of frozen juice popsicle company Eat Pops. Unlike the FrozFruit of our youth, which relied on sugar and artificial flavoring, Eat Pops are purely raw frozen juice, like taking your morning green juice out of your Breville juicer and freezing it. With pop flavors ranging from Glow, a mix of carrot, mango and pineapple, to Super Detox, a blend of acai, noni, cherry and goji, there is something to satisfy the Michi-clad Soulcycle-goer and her equally discerning tot. “Freezing makes the shelf life of juice so much longer, the portion size smaller and you can buy it at normal food stores so it makes it accessible to people that otherwise cannot take part in the juice-smoothie craze,” Milrom explains to us over a batch of her own homemade pops. With an expansion to the West Coast and additional flavors in the pipeline, Milrom and her Eat Pops are setting the bar for what a healthy dessert actually looks–and tastes like.
How did Eat Pops come about? Do you remember the moment?
I was studying for the New York Bar exam at NYU, which entails sitting at a computer and watching lectures for 12 hours a day and reviewing the lectures another four hours a day. It was so tedious and I would snack all day just to keep myself engaged. I remember thinking when I went to the food stores to stock up on snacks, “I’m either going to get a disease or gain 20 pounds because everything is filled with sugar or saccharin.” I didn’t have time to cook or have buy a custom salad with fresh ingredients. I thought, “Oh I know I’ll go to the market and buy a frozen pop version of the green juices I was drinking.” So I’m standing in the frozen food aisle at Fairway staring at all the options and thinking, “How does this not exist?” I just assumed it had already existed. The closest thing I could find had ingredients like water, sugar and fruit flavoring. I was so disappointed with that experience that I started buying juice and freezing it, or making my own juices and smoothies and freezing those. I would snack on them while I studied and everyday I was watching these lectures, having this snack that lasted a long time and was delicious and healthy. I thought, “This is such a good product.” If I want it, I’m sure other people want it too. So I manufactured samples and wrote a business plan. I knew if I didn’t do it then, I never would. I told three people, my mom, my best friend Lara and Nate, one of the founders of Sweetgreen. No one else knew what I was working on. There was an industrial-sized refrigerator in my apartment, people would ask what it was and I would be like, “Oh nothing.” I took popsicles very seriously, and I was very secretive. I spent six months going to frozen food buyers and asking them advice on packaging and how to sell them, everyone gave me a thumbs up. I launched in June 2014 and I’ve been doing it every since.
Where do you see Eat Pops fitting in with someone’s diet?
I don’t see Eat Pops as replacement to going to a place like Sweetgreen, or making delicious healthy food on your own, I think it’s more a solution for when your alternatives are less healthy. Like when you are at the airport and your only options are eating a pound of almonds or eating fast food. Or it could be 10pm, and you feel like you need something before bed. Even when you are running out the door and you think, “Should I have a Quest bar or nothing before I workout.”
I’m trying to do two things. One is creating a healthy alternative to ice cream. When you think of something healthier than ice cream, you think of frozen yogurt or sorbet. Those are just less bad for you, not good for you. So what’s amazing about this product, is that it’s still a delicious frozen dessert but it has nutritional value and functional benefits. Anyone who’s eaten frozen yogurt will never say they felt better afterwards, they’ll say I feel less bad than after I feel when I eat ice cream. The other thing I’m trying to do is make juicing more accessible. I love fresh juice but I don’t necessarily drink enough of it to make it worth spending $15 on one drink that may go bad. This makes the shelf life so much longer, the portion size smaller, you can buy it at normal food stores so it makes it accessible to the people that can’t otherwise take part in the juice-smoothie craze. Because of that, I’m also trying to keep the price down. For example, an avocado flavor is fun to do as an experiment and I’m happy to share the recipe, but it doesn’t necessarily fit with the model of making juices more accessible.
Who would you say is your biggest customer?
When I launched, I was doing events with Soulcycle, I had a freezer in modelFIT and I was working with lululemon, so the people that were finding out about the product were that demographic. Mostly young women, some men. People taking boutique fitness classes. However, the more I gained brand awareness among different demographics, the more I saw what a great product it is for moms and kids. It’s something you keep in your freezer. I’ve had moms tell me it’s great for them, because they can give it to their kids as a healthy snack or dessert. They don’t have to feel less bad, they can feel excited that their kid is eating kale.
What’s your favorite flavor?
I think they are all good for different occasions. If I want something sweet, I go to the Super Detox and if I want something more refreshing, I go to the Green Detox.
There are three in a box, how did you decide on the number?
Magnum Bars are boxed in three, and I thought it was the president for premium novelty frozen desserts.
You just did rebranding and expansion, correct?
Yes. I added three new flavors, coconut water, acai and a lemon flavor that has agave and cayenne.
Take us through what a testing is like.
When I was first starting out, I would make different flavors in ice cube trays. Some of the flavors needed a little modification, so I would make little tweaks and adjustments and label with Post-Its so I could tell the difference once they were frozen. I didn’t need a whole pop. My kitchen looked like a lab at that time. One of the first things I realized was that things that taste good together don’t always look good together, so now I think about color before I think about flavor. One of the best selling flavors is mango-carrot-pineapple and that recipe was formulated purely based on color.
Take us through a typical day.
First thing I do when I wake up is meditate and half the time I’m deciding if I want my breakfast to be sweet or savory. I make myself decide beforehand, otherwise I’m known to go back and forth between the two. I’m trying to avoid caffeine right now because, the nutritionist I’ve been seeing suggested I get off of it. Historically, I’m a sucker for Nescafe. I’ve bought really high-end coffee and it doesn’t compare to Nescafe. A typical breakfast if I want something sweet is an ice pop, juice or a smoothie. If I want something savory, I normally have avocado toast or hard boiled eggs with avocado. I always make breakfast at home. Once in a while, I have a breakfast meeting, but still I’ll make breakfast at home, eat it and then go to the meeting and have a coffee. There is something very ceremonial about breakfast. Sometimes I’ll have a piece of fruit or nuts in the morning if I’m hungry before lunch. I workout in the morning three or four days a week and in the evening two or three days a week. I practice yoga and I try to go five times a week. Sometimes I’ll throw in a Pilates or a spin class. My schedule is all over the place so I just have to squeeze things in. I belong to Equinox so I’ll hop into classes there. For lunch I eat at Sweetgreen everyday. I get fixated on a custom salad and I’ll eat it everyday for three months and then I can’t look at it again. Right now, it’s kale and mesclun base, with sautéed red onion, beets, carrots, red cabbage, rice, and wild salmon with pesto vinaigrette a lot of lemon juice and a sprinkle of salt. It’s heaven on earth. Sometimes if I need a snack, I’ll get an almond matcha latte. I meditate in the afternoon for 20 minutes, either here where I work, or in the steam room at Equinox. I’ve been known to meditate in the bathroom at the Marlton hotel. For dinner if I’m home, I’ll make something, if I’m at the office, I’ll go to Sweetgreen. Three or four days a week I’ll meet a friend or have a business dinner out. The good thing about being in the health food world, is that we usually pick somewhere healthy to go eat.
What is your meditation practice like?
It’s Vedic meditation, it’s a non-branded form of TM. You do it 20 minutes twice a day, reciting a mantra to yourself. You sit up with the timer on. I do it with no music, nothing, just still. You do a course like TM and the teacher gives you a mantra. For people trying to get into meditation there’s a great book called Wherever You Go, There You Are. That sold me on meditation and then I wanted the structure of having a class.
What are your food indulgences?
Chocolate. When you’ve been eating a healthy diet long enough, your body starts to crave healthy foods. I trust my body at this point so if I’m craving chocolate, I eat chocolate. I trust my body is in touch with itself that it’s not going to crave an entire pizza pie. At this point, I feel like my tastebuds have evolved I’m pretty ok with letting my body have what it wants. Most of the time, I’m craving Sweetgreen. Sometimes I want pizza, it looks delicious, so I have it. I keep Kosher, it’s how I was raised, so there’s always been a built-in level of boundary in my diet. I just don’t know what certain things taste like and that’s ok. I’ve always had discipline with my diet, so when I started imposing more consciousness with what Iet into my life, I never felt restricted. There’s nothing besides things that are non-Kosher that I absolutely rule out, I just try to eat those things in moderation.
What are some things we can always find in your pantry?
My pantry is really full. I always keep brown rice pasta from Trader Joe’s, cans of chickpeas and cans of beans. I have a lot of vitamins. I always keep my refrigerator full. I love food shopping, it’s my favorite way to spend an hour. I find it very meditative. I probably go food shopping two or three times a week and I wouldn’t give it up for anything. In my refrigerator I keep Persian cucumbers, red and orange peppers, red cabbage, some form of lettuce, lemons, mint, ginger, and weird ingredients I’m experimenting with. I always try to keep my refrigerator full of healthy foods.
What is your healthy non-negotiable of the day?
Meditation and I say the Shema, the Jewish prayer, after I meditate. It’s a Jewish prayer I say no matter what everyday. It got me through a rough time a few years ago. I didn’t realize it, but from growing up going to a religious Jewish school, I had more of an emotional connection with prayer. It provides me with more fortitude than I ever expected. It just resonates with me.
What’s on the horizon for Eat Pops?
We just launched on the West Coast in LA, San Francisco and Seattle. It’s been so exciting to get it to the people who have been wanting to get it, but couldn’t find it. I’m really excited about opportunities to work with kids. It’s cool we can pass this information onto kids at such young age. We can make a difference in the health and nutrition of children’s lives.
FOR SOPHIE’S GREEN JUICE POPS RECIPE, CLICK HERE