On Sunday, September 11, visitors to Shelburne Orchards’ Small Farms Food Fest tasted a new Vermont dessert. Cider Pops began as a teaching tool for Peter Stevens’ three kids, ages 5 to 9. Earlier this year, 9-year-old Luke proposed a popsicle stand on the corner where he’d sell his family’s favorite treat — frozen Champlain Orchards cider on a stick. His dad thought bigger. “No one’s ever done this commercially,” says Stevens of his simple family recipe.
The owner of Underpriced Mattress Warehouse in Essex hoped starting a small business would help teach his children a solid work ethic. “‘Let’s go to a farmers market,’” Stevens recalls saying. “One thing led to another — the cost of getting to a farmers market requires liability insurance. You really had to be in or out at that point, and we decided to go in.”
Stevens bought six freezers and 10,000 popsicle sticks. The design of the pops included colorful liners to catch drips. To make the desserts even healthier, some are filled with whole fruit. Strawberry has proved the most popular, says Stevens, but “peachy plum”; “honey berry,” made with mulled cider and strawberries; and “apple pie” also sold well.
Though Stevens says the concept started “simply and innocently,” he now envisions slowly building an empire that’s a healthy alternative to sugary treats. Next month he’ll be selling at events including Champlain Orchards Ciderfest and the Vermont Apple Festival & Craft Show in Springfield. Meanwhile, Cider Pops will undergo a makeover in anticipation of their debut in local stores and delis.
Stevens hasn’t quite reached the scale of Ben & Jerry’s yet, but he is hiring a chef to help concoct a total of 50 flavors for sale all over the state. Next stop, the world?