Would you try an amaretto lollipop? What about lavender? Or blue cheese?
Jason Darling, the co-owner behind novelty sticky pop company Lollyphile, thinks you should. Darling started Lollyphile with his girlfriend, Maria, after he realized in 2007 that his homemade, absinthe-flavored lollipops were making waves at parties.
From there, Lollyphile has ventured into even more adventurous territory, and the company now makes a range of crazy flavors. Breast milk lolly, anyone?
Check out our interview with Darling below, just in time for the Halloween sugar rush.
Your lollipops are pretty unusually flavored -- absinthe, sriracha, wasabi and ginger. How do you figure out if people will like a particular sucker flavor?
The best focus group is drunk strangers, because they’re not going to hold back. I’ll be like "Do you want to try a breast milk lollipop or a blue cheese lollipop or a siracha lollipop?" And whereas most people would be like, "No," drunk people will be like, "Why not?" And then they’ll like look you right in the eye and be like, “This tastes like sh*t,” or “This is fantastic.” And they’re totally honest because they’re strangers. They’re not going to care if they hurt my feelings. So if the drunk strangers like it, then I put it up on my website.
And then once they're on the website -- who's your target audience for these pops?
I brand lollipops towards adults. I mean, kids can eat them, they’re just sugar, they’re not going to get drunk off them. I do try to make an adult candy because I feel the candy industry as a whole is geared towards kids. As an adult, if you want to have a gastronomic adventure, you can’t have that in the candy aisle.
Is that why so many of your lollipops are spirit-flavored?
Cocktails are a really cool place to go to look at new flavor profiles ... the idea of putting strawberry and basil together -- I probably wouldn’t have had the idea to do that unless I had had a mojito first. Alcohol is a fun direction to go with flavor profiles.
But you also made a pop that tastes like breast milk.
My girlfriend and I had three friends who had babies at the same time, and Maria was like, "Breast milk must taste amazing," because I’d be holding a baby and it would be screaming and I’d pass it to its mom and she’d plug it in and it would be totally content. And I was like, "Can I get some of that?" So we tasted some [breast milk], and it was really good, so we started working on getting the flavor right.
Have any of your flavors been used by other candy companies?
Maple Bacon. I was the first person to do it, then I started seeing them show up everywhere. In the world of the food industry, there are no patents. You can’t patent a recipe. All you can really have are trade secrets.
But [the maple-bacon appropriation] was a really good lesson for me because I learned I needed to not be totally transparent about everything, which is what I had been -- like I'd be like, [to other companies], “Oh my God, you’re allowed to make this, totally.” The other thing I learned is to keep coming out with things as fast as I can and to just be innovative, because there’s not a whole lot of innovation in the candy industry.