Meet the makers of Chill Pop, a CLE-based gourmet popsicle company
Black pepper plum and lemon ricotta may not be typical popsicle flavors, but for Chill Pop Shop, a Cleveland-based company specializing in unconventional frozen fare, they’re par for the course.
Founded in 2013 by Elizabeth and Maggie Pryor, Chill Pop Shop was a bit of an accident. The couple were searching for a new venture after moving back to their hometown of Cleveland post-college. Both had a passion for healthy food, with Maggie having earned a master’s degree in Health Education and Elizabeth working as a holistic health coach. Inspired by the offbeat flavors of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams and an online photo of a gourmet popsicle, they dove right in.
“Everything just snowballed really quickly,” says Elizabeth. “We moved back in late spring and realized that with everything warming up here in Cleveland, if we were contemplating going for it, we should just jump right in and not miss out on an entire summer.”
It was a gamble that paid off. Recipes were tested in Elizabeth’s grandma’s kitchen before they moved production into Central Kitchen. They quickly were accepted to peddle pops from a push cart at farmer’s markets and the inaugural season of the Cleveland Flea. The frosty treats consistently sold out and soon they moved production to their own manufacturing facility in Tyler Village on Cleveland’s east side. Whole Foods was the first grocery store to stock Chill Pop — first locally, then throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. Today, Chill Pops are stocked in nearly 150 stores in around 20 states, including Hawaii and Texas.
It’s little wonder why: Not only are the six flavors inspired (watermelon lime, avocado mint chip, lemon ricotta, black pepper plum, sea salt strawberry cream, and coco mocha fudge), but as self-described foodies, the Pryors go out of their way to make sure the ingredients are notable too: natural and ethically sourced.
“We care a lot about where our food comes from, and how it’s sourced and made,” says Elizabeth. “Part of our own philosophy when it comes to food and nutrition and health is that it also still needs to be enjoyed, and for us, that means there is a place for sweet treats in a healthy diet.”
To find this sweet spot between healthy and indulgent, Chill Pops are non-GMO certified; include organic ingredients when possible; use fair-trade coffee, sugar and chocolate; are mostly plant-based (with local, grass-fed dairy in others); and are gluten-free with soy-free chocolate.
“We want our frozen treats to be accessible to everyone,” says Elizabeth. “So high-allergen ingredients are out.”
The popsicles are made with real fruit, lending a rich texture not found in traditional juice or concentrate-based popsicles. A refreshing fruity goodness is what makes watermelon lime the most popular flavor: “It tastes just like a frozen real watermelon,” says Elizabeth.
Seasonal and one-off flavors like peppermint gingerbread, peach sriracha, and agave garlic (specially created for the Cleveland Garlic Festival) are sometimes temporarily added to the repertoire. Despite the unusual flavors, they haven’t had any duds. Even agave garlic sold out.
That community support is a huge reason the Pryors set up shop here in Cleveland. From whipping up recipes in Grandma’s kitchen to pouring fruit mixtures into industrial molds in their own production space, the city’s burgeoning artisan food scene has always been a welcoming and encouraging climate to scale up a food company.
“We really took this farmer’s market start and leveraged it into distribution and manufacturing, and there’s nothing more Cleveland than that,” says Elizabeth. “Bringing manufacturing and industrial energy back and that sort of Cleveland grit, spirit, and drive has been a real fit for us.”