Modern Pop founder Julie Podolec has transformed the classic ice pop into a guilt-free treat.
By Tess Eyrich
Even in a place that prizes organic and sustainable foods as much as Laguna does, finding an all-natural snack that truly lives up to its name can still pose something of a challenge. That’s where Julie Podolec comes into the picture. Just over a year ago, the new mother created Modern Pop, a homegrown company that sells frozen fruit bars made with only fresh fruit and, if necessary, all-natural sweeteners like honey and agave nectar.
After spending the past summer selling the gluten- and dairy-free pops from a cart outside Sapphire Laguna, Julie reports that Modern Pop products are now carried by Bristol Farms’ Newport Beach and Santa Monica locations, and she and her husband are gearing up to distribute the fruit bars to all 14 of the market’s Southern California outposts as well as Whole Foods Market in Laguna. In the meantime, she’s teamed up with Newport Beach-based event planning firm Tamera Event Design to make the pops the stars of a host of local celebrations.
Here, Julie shares her story of causing a modern sensation with Laguna Beach Magazine.
Laguna Beach Magazine: What inspired you to start Modern Pop?
Julie Podolec: The main inspiration was my son. At the time he was only around 8 months old, and he was going through a really bad teething process. I went to Whole Foods—that’s usually where we shop if we want to find something more natural for him. Although we thought it would be an easy thing to pick up at the grocery store, we left empty-handed. Everything had sugar and fillers and juices. My husband and I decided to start experimenting in our kitchen, and so that was the main inspiration, just trying to give my son something healthy and alternative to anything else that was on the market.
LBM: What flavors does Modern Pop offer?
JP: The flavors are raspberry ginger, watermelon cilantro and mango mint, and we just came out with one that’s simpler for everyone, including kids, and it’s strawberry lemonade.
LBM: Which flavor is your favorite?
JP: My favorite is mango mint. It’s not as sweet—it’s one where we don’t use any sweetener, so it’s just mangoes, mint and lime juice. And it’s minty, so it’s kind of like a mojito.
LBM: What was the process of refining the flavors like? Any mishaps along the way?
JP: Some of the flavors I tried just didn’t have that excitement about them; they were just really bland. Banana was one of those flavors that I thought would be good, but it was a little bit plain because we’re not adding in anything else to enhance the flavor of the fruit. Raspberry ginger is amazing; we don’t have to add much agave … because raspberries are just naturally sweet.
LBM: Have you always been interested in cooking, or was it a more recent development?
JP: It was a totally new thing. I’ve always been in sales, and my husband works in finance, so it’s a good balance. … But as far as cooking, I kind of got into it after I had my baby. I wanted to be giving him good food, not junk food.
LBM: Did anything in particular motivate you to adopt a healthier lifestyle overall?
JP: My husband and I moved here from New York City five years ago. Moving to Laguna Beach, I’ve never seen a culture that’s so health-conscious. You have all of these healthy options in Laguna, from gluten-free foods to healthy bowls to smoothies—if I were in New York City I’d still be eating McDonald’s. It’s just a different culture. I saw that there’s definitely a niche in the market for a healthy alternative to an old standard. … I think having moved to Laguna Beach really opened my eyes to a healthier lifestyle. LBM