Here’s a stumper for the career counselors out there: What if you’ve got a studio art and sociology double major as well as a law degree and a few years of law practice under your belt? You’re a pretty good cook and a people person as well. What should you do?
You should make lollipops, of course. When you meet Jennifer Edelson and taste one of her PopOrganic lollipops, it makes perfect sense.
As a studio artist, Edelson once worked with the big stuff — in a foundry, where the molten metals got a whole lot hotter than even melted sugar. She now works with silver and glass and makes jewelry in organic shapes not unlike her little cloud-shaped lollipops.
As a lawyer, Edelson learned to dot every “i” and doublecheck that the length of the crossbar on the “t” met legal standards; she learned that contracts and red tape are just the price of doing business. Anyone who has navigated health department and FDA regulations knows how valuable such knowledge is.
As a self-taught home cook, she has a natural sense of culinary curiosity and is nearly fearless in front of a pot of boiling sugar waiting for flavors. What happens if she mixes banana extract and Hatch chiles in her lollipops? Magic. Will the kitchen explode if she stirs marshmallow fluff into hot sugar? Surprisingly, no. Can you make an olive oil–flavored lollipop? Nope. Not yet, at least.
And, perhaps most important of all, she just loves the way her lollipops make people happy. She even loves the customer service part of running a small business.
“I don’t know how, but I woke up one day knowing I was going to make lollipops,” she says. “It’s just the perfect marriage of everything I love to do.”
Edelson started PopOrganic in early 2014. She sells primarily on Etsy and at the Shoreview Farmers Market, but she’s exploring partnerships with other retail outlets, both online and in stores. People order everything from packs of five lollipops ($8-$12) to elaborate gift baskets.
For now, the PopOrganic operation is just her, pouring about a dozen lollipops at a time onto sheets of parchment paper in a communal kitchen space. She’s done this so many times that her hand holding the spatula can sense when the sugar mixture is just the right viscosity for pouring, and she can quickly form a forest of little candy Truffula Trees that are just the right thickness.
Once she had mastered lollipops, she figured out how to make fizzing candies (like Zotz) and popping candies (like Pop Rocks), only hers actually taste like cherries and berries, instead of red dye.
When the holidays brought a wave of orders last year, that’s when it hit her: “Oh, I guess I’ve got a business here,” she remembers. “People really want these.”
Everybody’s drawn to the nostalgia of a lollipop, but some people are looking particularly for the kind of candy that’s hard to find anywhere else: Edelson uses organic sugar and extracts as well as dye-free papers and compostable packaging. She cooks in pots that are Teflon-free and doesn’t use plastic molds. And she has a line of candies made with xylitol, a tree-derived sugar substitute.
For other fans, the “organic” side of PopOrganic is just icing on the candy cake. They love the flavors you just can’t find anywhere else: not only matcha and espresso — those are almost a given these days — but salted lime, sriracha, wasabi, pineapple-jalapeño, horchata, peppered pear, even fennel, cucumber-basil, and sage.
Reading through that list makes you think that lollipops are probably due for their time in the limelight. They’ve got it all: endless variations of trendy flavors, an adorable kick of nostalgia, and a tiny, low-guilt serving size.
Just as Jennifer Edelson’s winding path seems to have led her naturally to the surprising role of candy entrepreneur, lollipops could be the unlikely new “it” treat.
Who’s for making lollipops the new popsicle / macaron / cupcake?