Brooks Podolec is only 18 months old, but he's already a powerful influence in the Orange County retail world.
His parents, Julie and Brad Podolec, sought last year to launch a popsicle business that would provide stores with an all-natural treat — and also provide their son, who had begun teething, with a healthy snack. As Modern Pop took shape, Brooks served as a sampler for the 30-some flavors the Podolecs tried out.
Thanks in part to Brooks' discretion, Modern Pop now offers a streamlined menu of six popsicles, which it provides to local venues and sells out of its cart in front of Sapphire Laguna restaurant in Laguna Beach.
"Our whole theme and our whole purpose is that we're bringing popsicles and desserts back to the basics with only three to four ingredients in each of them — and all the ingredients [are ones] you know," said Julie on Tuesday morning outside Sapphire. "We don't use any gums or any artificial flavorings. It's all just fruit."
That last fact is easy to deduce just by looking at the popsicles. Modern Pop's products, which are crafted at a kitchen in Costa Mesa, sport indicators that they're not made from synthetics: mint leaves embedded in the Mango Mint, strawberry slices in the Strawberry Basil. The Raspberry Ginger, which this reporter tried, features chunks of raw ginger that settle pungently on the taste buds.
In addition to using honey or agave instead of sugar, the popsicles are dairy-free. The company's offerings, which also include Watermelon Cilantro and Blackberry, can be found at Bristol Farms in Newport Beach, the Sawdust Art Festival and the Pizza Lounge in Laguna Beach. (The sixth flavor, Strawberry Lemonade, is a cart-only option not available elsewhere.)
Andrea Kane, a co-manager at the Pizza Lounge, said the popsicles have proven a winner among customers since the restaurant began offering them this spring.
"People seem to really like them, especially people who have diabetes or need low sugar," she said. "It's a great alternative."
The Podolecs, who live in Laguna, split the company's duties, with Brad handling finance and web duties and Julie in charge of marketing and publicity. The cart, which parks outside Sapphire from noon to 4 p.m. every day but Monday during the summer, also serves at catering events.
On a typical day, according to Julie, the cart sells between 40 and 60 popsicles. And the company continues to experiment with possible new flavors; the fact that Brooks, at least, enjoys all the offerings so far is a positive sign.
"A lot of kids do have a sophisticated palette," Julie said.
Where: In front of Sapphire Laguna, 1200 S. Coast Hwy., Suite 101, Laguna Beach
When: Noon to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday