A fast-growing Denver company is catching a lot of attention for its new twist on an old favorite: frozen fruit pops.
Cool Frootz LLC, which does business as Froozer, started in January 2015 and ended its inaugural year with $1.2 million in sales, says President Rich Naha.
This year, the company — which has seven employees on the payroll — is on a pace to exceed that, he said.
Froozer sells frozen squeeze tubes of fruits and vegetables that are billed as a “frozen fruit snack.” They taste sweet, like a cross between frozen yogurt and soft-serve ice cream.
So far, Froozer offers three flavors: Strawberry Bliss, a combination that includes grapes, strawberries and bananas; Tropical Sunset with mangoes, grapes, pineapples and bananas; and Blue Aloha, including pineapples, grapes, bananas, blueberries and carrots. Three more flavors are slated to launch by the end of the year.
“The kids think it’s a dessert, but they can have it for breakfast or for a snack anytime — it’s a half-serving of fruit,” Naha said. “It’s made of whole fruits and vegetables, [and] there’s no sugar added and no water.”
The ingredients are picked when they’re ripe, then flash frozen. Machines at Froozer’s manufacturing plant in Oregon slice the fruits and vegetables into extremely thin pieces, then smush the slices together to create the Froozer snack, he said.
The process, which doesn’t expose the fruit to heat or oxygen, means “you’re getting the entire fruit, there’s no waste,” Naha said.
The company checks the process and the product for pathogens all along the line. And the slicing process doesn’t damage the fiber or the cell walls, or the micro nutrients in the cells, he said.
“People are very, very receptive to the label because it’s simple, recognized food with no added sugar. It’s the next evolution in minimally processed food,” Naha said.
“Every other product in the market adds water or sugar or uses heat and refreezing,” he added.
The snack has made inroads among a number of groups and organizations, including the Denver Broncos’ Dove Valley training center, Naha said.
Several school districts across the country; three children’s hospitals, including Aurora’s Children’s Hospital Colorado; and Denver Zoo also have approved offering Froozer, he said.
And retail stores are following suit, including Safeway, Whole Foods Market, 7-Eleven, Wal-Mart Stores, BJ’s and Kroger, the parent company of King Soopers, Fred Meyer and City Market, according to Froozer executives.
Some stores stock Froozer’s snacks in the frozen fruit section; others tuck it in among the frozen desserts, Naha said.
So far, the company has raised $3 million from investors and expects to finish raising an additional $1 million by the end of 2016.
That’s good, because Froozer is growing so fast that Naha expects the company to exceed its existing production capacity — about 30 million sticks of 2-ounce Froozer pops — next year.
“We’ll be raising money to expand,” he said.
Among the current investors is the Colorado Health Foundation, the state’s largest foundation, which focuses on improving the health and health care for Coloradans. The foundation makes grants and investments totaling more than $76 million a year.
It invested $650,000 in Froozer, said Amy Latham, the foundation’s vice president of philanthropy.
“Froozer is tasty, entirely all fresh fruits and veggies and kids are a big area of focus for us as well as increasing access to physical activity and healthy, nutritious food,” Latham said.
“[Froozer] was a home run for us,” she said.
Cathy Proctor covers energy, the environment and transportation for the Denver Business Journal and edits the weekly "Energy Inc." newsletter. Phone: 303-803-9233. Subscribe to the Energy Inc. newsletter