NORTH HAVEN — PopCentric founder Vicki DeCristofaro is on a mission to make healthy food fun and enjoyable through gourmet frozen treats.
The idea was born out of a motherly desire to have her own kids eat more vegetables and less sugar.
“I started because I was trying to sneak vegetables into pops for my kids, who were extremely picky,” DeCristofaro said.
At first, she tried to keep the pops as healthy as possible but eventually added more “traditional” treat flavors like cookies and cream because of customer demand.
“My original idea, was to try to make healthy pops that you felt good about giving your kids and they liked, but they didn’t know they were getting all the good stuff,” DeCristofaro said. “The public is more like my kids than I thought … They like the indulgent stuff.”
She still has many vegetable-inspired flavors, including mango carrot orange, kale berry, and coconut avocado. Recently, she’s been experimenting with herb pairings, like lavender custard or pineapple ginger. There are dairy and non-dairy varieties.
Her inspiration comes from food shows, recipes and her 20-plus years in the restaurant business. The honey, fig and goat cheese flavor was inspired by Tre Scalini in New Haven, where she worked.
She also credits the owner of Tre Scalini for helping her get started in 2015 — when she needed a certified kitchen and didn’t have a storefront. The storefront did open, a year later at 55 State St., but DeCristofaro said she couldn’t have done it without that early generosity.
DeCristofaro makes the pops by mixing the homemade batch in liquid form and then pours it into molds and puts it in an industrial water-cooled pop maker for about 30 minutes.
Pops are available at the store, but are also sold at farmers markets and on GrubHub. She takes orders for private events like birthday parties or weddings.
Wallingford resident Diane Madore stopped in the store to pick up a handful of pops Wednesday. Madore got hooked on PopCentric at a food truck festival a few years ago.
“I like that it’s not just sugar water,” Madore said. “She uses real fruit and real ingredients in it and of course, the taste is delicious.”
Madore, who is lactose intolerant, appreciates the non-dairy options. Her favorite flavor is root beer float.
“I take a lot of pleasure and pride in knowing that I’ve made something that people like and I think people should be a little more daring sometimes,” DeCristofaro said.
Feeling daring? She suggests trying the spicy mango or honey, fig, and goat cheese.
PopCentric is open at 55 State St. from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays. The store will switch to fall business hours starting Sept. 9 — 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday and closed on Sunday.