Lickalix and Pops: Sitting in a puddle

Popsicle startups deal with the tricky business of transporting products across the country that become unsellable if they don’t stay cold.

Selling frozen products is assumed to be breeze by anyone in the tightrope-walking perishable fresh foods business; just compare selling bananas or fresh salmon, which barely last a week, with frozen peas or ice cream that can sit in a freezer for well over a year.

But there’s an inherent and unique vulnerability in some frozen foods that isn’t faced by fresh foods: they melt.

Scaling lollies

It’s a problem encountered by new businesses attempting twists on ice lollies and ice creams, particularly when trying to work out how they can scale up, transport their products across the UK and further afield, while ensuring they don’t turn into sticky puddles in the process.

Pops sells Champagne and Bellini lollies akin to childhood favourite, the Calippo popsicle. Pops founder James Rae is already supplying delis, corporate events and a handful of restaurants.

Lickalix, meanwhile, is an ice lolly on a stick, where the emphasis is on ingredients and quirky flavour combinations. It’s run by Dominic Gesua.

Big chillers

Both Rae and Gesua have become immersed in the far from glamorous world of frozen haulage.

The alcohol content in Pops means they need to stay colder than family-friendly lollies, as boozy ones begin to melt at minus 5 or 6 celsius as opposed to a fruit one which only starts dribbling at minus one.

Pops founder James Rae gets his popsicles down to a trembling minus 30 in the company’s big chillers at its warehouse in Chelsea to give them the best chance of avoiding melting once on the road.

Little ecosystem

Traditionally, sub zero trucks have been the preserve of big food groups shipping enormous boxes of frozen chips, fish fingers and ice creams. A small ecosystem exists where only a few firms run the transport and distribution depots equipped to disperse frozen goods around the UK. Flexibility and prices are less forgiving than the options for non-frozen goods.

For Lickalix or Pops, sending 1,000 ice lollies from London to a stockist or event in Edinburgh would be the same price as if they were sending 10,000. There’s no advantage in scale for startups of their size.

It’s also expensive. Shipping a box of 1,000 lollies to Edinburgh costs £130; a similar sized box of crisps would cost less than £50.

The price of logistics could change if more independent frozen brands emerge to effectively create a more viable market for frozen logistics. In this sense, Likalix and Pops are a rarity in startups: they would experience a tangible upside if more competitors enter the ice cream and ice lolly market.