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Ice pop company establishes roots in Catonsville

Goat cheese, fig and herbs aren't ingredients typically found in an ice pop — but one Catonsville resident is offering those unusual flavors in the summer treat, even as the weather grows cold.

"If you could go to Giant and be happy with the selection, we wouldn't feel like we have to exist as a company," said Allison Bolten, 34, as she demonstrated how to make the icy treats in her kitchen on Devere Lane last week.

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This fall and winter, Bolten, owner of Picnic Pops, plans to work on branding her product to package and distribute in stores, before the icy treats grow popular again during the spring and summer months.

The all-natural, often organic, ice pops are made in a kitchen in Oella.

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Brown sugar, honey, vanilla, water, organic dates, thyme and rosemary simmered on the stove, producing a fragrant scent.

"It makes it a delicious syrup," Bolten said, preparing another mixture of milk and goat cheese.

The two mixtures were later combined in a blender then poured into molds.

The final product was an unexpectedly tasty combination of flavors.

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"The whole point is giving people a super yummy, sweet enough treat that has integrity — that is what it says it is," said Bolten, who moved to Catonsville in July from College Park.

"In regular ice cream truck pops, there are food dyes that are proven to be bad for your health," Bolten said. "Ours are very low in sugar and dense with fruit — so I feel good about it."

Elder flower pear, rooibos maple, mocha, and peach and bourbon are just some of the exotic flavors offered by Bolten's growing ice pop company.

Each pop is sold for $3 at festivals and farmer's markets, with a reduced price offered for bulk orders at catering events, Bolten said, adding, the company also offers more "universally acceptable" flavors like lemonade, key lime pie, coconut apple and mango, for those with less adventurous palates.

Bolten said the natural product is for health-conscious parents looking to provide their children with an alternative to sugary desserts.

"It's nice that they're not loaded with all the artificial sugar, flavor and dyes found in regular [pops]," said Melissa Schwarz, 45, who purchased batches of blueberry, watermelon and lemonade pops from Bolten for her 7-year-old son's birthday three weeks ago. "He loves [ice pops], so I'd rather him eat those than the ones loaded with sugar."

Schwarz, a neighbor of Bolten's, said the natural pops were a hit with the group of 20 kids at the party.

"They were gobbling them down," she said. "They loved them."

Bolten currently caters private events like birthday parties and weddings. The treats are also offered through the Catonsville Cooperative Market and sold at the Sunday farmers' market offered by the Greater Catonsville Chamber of Commerce.

"I think they found a real niche with these," Schwarz said. "She comes up with unique flavors that you won't find from a mass production line."

Jennifer Taylor, another Catonsville parent, said she bought the ice pops for her 9-year-old daughter's birthday in August.

She said it was the "exotic flavors" that piqued her interest, along with a desire to support a local business in the community.

"I liked the idea of helping a local business of a parent here in Catonsville," Taylor said. Bolten lives with her husband John, a hydrologist for NASA, and her two children. She said the idea to make ice pops began as a summer family time activity.

They started making the ice pops from tea — an Earl Grey and peach flavor and another with Rooibos tea and Vermont maple syrup.

"They're really simple flavors, but so good," Bolten said, a self-described foodie who cooks meals from scratch every evening for her family.

"I realized early on that I wanted to turn this into a legitimate occupation," said Bolten, who teaches music lessons during the school year.

Because there is less of a demand for music lessons in the summer, Bolten said she needed to find a way to occupy her time. She began selling the pops from a cooler. Then, in 2012, her husband surprised her with a food cart, which she uses during the summer months at farmer's markets and festivals. The cart allowed her to become more of a full-fledged operation, with the ability to cater events and sell her product to those looking to cool down during the sweltering summer months.

"This was a summer gig for me, but I'm trying to make it a year round thing," Bolten said.

Her next move is wholesale distribution to grocery chains like Whole Foods, Yes! Organic Market and other similar organic and natural food stores.

She recently raised more than $4,000 through Kickstarter.com, a website that allows people to raise money for specific causes or business endeavors. will go to branding design and securing food licenses to eventually get the product onto the shelves of grocery stores throughout the Washington, D.C. and Baltimore areas, Bolton said.

"Our goal is to be in at least a couple of locally-owned health food stores by the end of July," Bolten said.

For more information about the company go to: picnicpops.com.

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