I was one of those kids who had an evil mom. You know, the mom who won’t let you eat junk food because she cares about your health. While I watched my friends rip into their fruit roll-ups, Pringles, pudding, and Gushers (which, in hindsight, are really weird and gross), I sadly unwrapped my peanut butter sandwich and wished my apple was a green apple Jolly Rancher. This junk food deprivation (otherwise known as “eating real food”) meant that I had to wait for college before I could eat as unhealthily as I liked. Then I realized that I wasn’t missing out on much. The thing is, eating garbage isn’t all that tasty when your taste buds get accustomed to eating food the way it’s supposed to be eaten. Julieta Mosqueda, co-owner of Guanabana Artisan Ice Pops, had the same realization when she herself became a mom. She and Oliver, her husband, decided that people should be able to have their cake and eat it, too. In other words, the Mosquedas wanted to make unhealthy treats healthy, and make them taste even more tempting than a stick of food dye and high fructose corn syrup.Originally from Colombia, Julieta studied English in Kansas City and planned on entering the nursing program. Meanwhile, Oliver, who was born in Venezuela, worked in the food industry. After 20 years of working in restaurants, Oliver was pretty sure he wanted to keep working with food. They eventually moved to Jacksonville around 2005 and decided they were in a city where they could raise their family.
The leap to popsicle seemed pretty big to me, so I asked Julieta what made her start thinking about making pops. Ultimately, it came down to a desire to give her children healthy treats. “In Colombia, popsicles are 100% fruit,” she said. “There are no artificial colors or sugars. That’s what we’re used to.” She was surprised, and a bit freaked out, at the ingredients of store-bought pops–particularly the stark lack of fruit in many of them. Julieta and Oliver decided they were going to try making pops for themselves and see what happened.
In the beginning, the recipes were a combination of their favorite flavors. “We just started mixing things,” Julieta said. With 3 children eager to eat pops every day, Julieta and Oliver had their fair share of honest tasters. Once they had some decent pops, Julieta and Oliver began giving them to friends and family to get even more input. This helped the Mosquedas learn the beloved American flavors, like chocolate, peanut butter, and green tea. Guanabana Pops has the Latin flavors that Julieta and Oliver are used to, but they’ve since added more American flavors, as well as vegan pops for those who don’t want milk. Last time we spoke, Guanabana had over 40 flavors, but I’m sure their list has grown since then. No matter the flavor, though, you can bet that the pops are exactly what they say they are. Order a mango pop and you’re going to get fresh mango, and that’s about it.After Julieta and Oliver were confident that their pops tasted good, they began selling. Guanabana started in December of 2013 in smaller settings. Oliver first sold out of the famous lime-green bicycle in June of 2014, after months of sanding and polishing in the garage. By August, Guanabana was selling at RAM and Jaxsons Night market. Now, you can find a Guanabana freezer in the Magnificat Cafe downtown, Tres Leches, Antojitos Colombianos in Baymeadows, the Conscious Eats stand at farmers markets, and Hola Cuban Cafe in Fernandina. Julieta and Oliver are up for selling anywhere, at any time. Birthday parties, weddings, festivals–you name it, they’ll want to share their pops there. They are hoping to eventually make it into natural grocery stores, like Whole Foods or Earth Fare.
Julieta and Oliver are all about supporting locals, which is why they get their fruits from farmers markets and farms around the area. Some exotic fruits, like the famous guanabana, come straight from South America so that Oliver and Julieta can bring the flavors of their childhood right to Jax. Currently, Julieta’s favorite pop is the moraberry, and I think I might agree with her. The pop is a beautiful reddish-pink, with a sweet and tart flavor similar to blackberries. Oliver loves the coconut pop, which reminds him of the fruits he grew up eating.Julieta’s favorite part about making pops is tasting the finished product. She thinks trying the pops for the first time is exciting. “It’s so different after you freeze it, as opposed to tasting the mix,” she said. As far as Jacksonville, Julieta loves the small businesses that she sees everywhere. Before Guanabana started, she didn’t know much about downtown or the quainter areas of Jax. Now, she’s a huge food truckie, and would like to have one eventually.
It’s exciting to me that eating healthy can taste so good. I’m even more excited that it’s okay for me to still eat popsicles as an adult. Guanabana has helped me realize that you don’t have to be a kid to enjoy delicious, fruity, sweet, and healthy popsicles. Guanabana ensures that, no matter your age or taste preference, you’re going to find something deliciously healthy to keep you cool on those summer days. If you’re thinking, “Hey, it’s fall now,” just remember that we live in Jacksonville, where there is no such thing as fall or winter. So when it’s Christmas Eve and you’re in a t-shirt and shorts, you can probably find Oliver riding around town on a bright green bike. Be sure to flag him down to try a pop that even my mom would approve of.