Lola's Ice Pops: A mums and pops affair

PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 28 June, 2013, 9:36am

Lola's Ice Pops, launched only two months ago by three young mothers - Julie Tuan Ru-yi, Sandra Wong Wing-yan and Vickie Hay - has already taken the outdoor fairs and pop-ups circuit by storm.

From classic combinations such as chocolate banana to the more adventurous mango and chilli, their artisan icicles meet demand for natural treats with no preservatives, stabilisers or other artificial ingredients. Aside from one-off public events, they also sell via their website, and cater for private events and custom orders.

Here, we speak to one of the founders, Julie Tuan.

If a child likes it, an adult will like it, but not the other way around
Julie Tuan, Co-founder

What are your backgrounds?

None of us have a food background. Sandra and I were both lawyers and Vickie has a marketing background. We met through our kids - they're all aged one month apart - at a playgroup. We were all out of work for the first time, raising kids, and we just decided to try doing something that's interesting and healthy.

What are the challenges you face in starting up a business?

Artisan ice pops are really popular elsewhere in the world. In the United States, you go to a park and someone will just show up with a freezer. But here it's hard because you need to get the proper licence.

We figured out the guys with the carts selling ice cream on the street had a licence, and they stopped giving those out in the 1980s. It's just virtually impossible for us to do a pop-up on the street in Hong Kong. We thought about doing it under the radar, but it's risky, and we have legal backgrounds, so we wanted to do everything the right way.

The major challenge was to get the licence, as there were all sorts of requirements, such as for pasteurisation. But once we got over that hurdle, it was pretty smooth. Now the biggest issue is logistics, because people want to get them at home, so then we've got to figure out how to deliver within a certain time frame. You can't just dump them on their doorstep.

How many flavours have you come up with so far?

Close to 50. We always test them and think about variations, so next time we'll try it with these extra elements. We usually do at least six flavours at each event.

Tell us about the ingredients. Do you have difficulty finding what you want?

No, we do it the other way around. We get whatever is available and fresh. I want to do an orange and passion fruit creamsicle, but I've gone everywhere and I can't seem to find fresh ingredients, so we can't do that one.

The only difficulty we've had so far is that it's hard to know what's going to be available. We go to the wholesale and outdoor markets and supermarkets, so we can get the freshest goods.

We figure out that a particular shop has the best mangoes, but when I was left to my own devices, the mangoes I got weren't as sweet as the ones Sandra got. So the hard part is actually being consistent. Everything has been developed through trial and error.

It's mostly pure fruit. If it's a cream-based one, like chocolate or cheesecake, then it's cream cheese. Our last ingredient is sugar, whereas if you go to a lot of shops, you'll see the first ingredient on the list [meaning the highest proportion] is sugar.

How do you decide whether to cater more for adults' or children's tastes?

If a child likes it, an adult will like it, but not the other way around, so we lean towards the standard flavours such as chocolate, strawberry and banana.

You have a strong logo [a pastel green and red banner featuring a cartoon figure and red ice lolly] and brand identity. How did you create them?

All of us grew up eating ice lollies, so we wanted something nostalgic and memorable. Everyone keeps asking us who Lola is. It's all of us. We hired a graphic designer in Canada to do the logo. We wanted something cute and retro. When people see our fridge and branding, they think we're professionals, maybe a firm from the US, which is surprising but also satisfying.