Happy Pops takes its treats to Wonderland

The all-natural frozen treat is the theme park's official frozen stick as it continues to boost appeal with adults and kids.

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Happy Pops is teaming up with Canada’s Wonderland to bring a more healthy hot-weather treat to the theme park’s 40,000 daily visitors.

The Canadian dairy-free ice pop, which comes in singles and packs of four, is the exclusive sticks treat for Wonderland, which is “huge for a local brand,” says company founder Leila Keshavjee, who launched Happy Pops in 2016, drawing upon her South Asian heritage, as well as her family’s experience in the food industry.

Theme park staples like hot dogs and funnel cakes aren’t going anywhere, but according to Keshavjee, people are always looking for a better-for-you snacking option that are still tasty and appeal to the masses. The category leader is the ubiquitous Unilever brand Popsicle, which, like Kleenex, has became a category catchall term and which includes Fudgsicles, Creamsicles and the tricloured Firecrackers.

However, as a brand, Happy Pops is going against the category grain by being aimed at both adults and children, and being made with real fruit and sweetened with a hint of organic cane sugar.

To draw eyeballs at shelf, Happy Pops approached District Ventures to help elevate its initial branding into “one that oozes luxury, sophistication and communicated quality,” according to its packaging designer, and one that eschews the garish colours of the competition.

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“When you think of the popsicle category, you think bright and vibrant, and so we wanted to stay with that, but make it elevated and sophisticated,” Keshavjee says, adding that an eye catching colour block was key. Another design consideration was that its single-serve package is something that can stand up so if it’s displayed in a a café or store it can have that visual impact.

Pre-lockdowns, 70% of Happy Pops’ business was catering and events and 30% was grocery. Now, she says, it’s 50% grocery, and that its ecomm business is seeing its fortunes rise too.

Keshavjee says that as a new brand, there are some limitations to being showcased as a “local” product because it’s in cooler. However, it has been driving trial through Sobeys’ local program, as well as Metro banner planograms.

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In addition to building a buzz through social, contesting and trade shows, Keshavjee says sampling is coming back, including rack samples and some open samples in grocery too. Last summer, Happy Pops helped bring the Air Miles and Voila partnership to life with a branded ice pop sampling food truck event in Toronto.

And when it comes to other ways of driving interest, cash back reward apps are something it’s considering, although she says it doesn’t have the required Walmart and Loblaw distribution yet to make that option viable.

Keshavjee says that contrary to expectations, demand for Happy Pops is more of a year-round affair than simply summer with, for example, its Valentine’s Day collection drawing lots of attention in February. “The seasonality continues to get better year over year from September to May, something we’ve always wanted,” she says. “It’s a better-for-you option you can enjoy year round.”

Kate Makinson handles the brand’s PR outreach.