In 1905, a boy named Frank Epperson lived in San Francisco, California, USA. One random evening, after being out all day, he took a pot and filled it with sugar, soda, and water. He used a wooden stick to mix it and left the mixture unattended.
The eleven-year-old boy completely forgot about it. The cold winter was in full swing and the pot sat outside the house in the shivering cold of San Francisco. When Aperson woke up the next morning, he found that his soda and water mixture had transformed into an icicle.
Epperson became very curious and, without hesitation, tasted the frozen mixture, exclaiming, "It's so amazing!" This is how he unintentionally created "popsicle".
Epperson named this food "Epsicle," a fusion of "Epperson" and "icicle." He made a few more Epsicles and shared them with his friends, who praised the treat.
Encouraged by their feedback, he decided to start selling it. This marked the start of his business at Neptune Sea Beach, which grew rapidly. His children later named it "Popsicle."
Popsicles are not very visible in Bangladesh. Syeda Sharmin Ahmed saw this gap in the market and founded "Fruitsicles" in 2022. The business went public in February 2023.
However, she started working with popsicles during the COVID-19 lockdown, making them at home using seasonal fruits. She initially created four flavours: watermelon, mango, pineapple, and orange.
Encouraged by her family and neighbours, Sharmin decided to turn this into a commercial venture. A devoted entrepreneur and mother, she felt the need for relatively healthier food options for children. Her own love for ice cream and concerns about the quality of ice pops and lollies commonly found in the market also inspired her.
We often see fake ice cream factories being raided and fined. Sharmin wanted to bring out a safer option in the market. She wants to show that healthy, carbon footprint-chemical-free, completely hand-made ice cream can sustain in the market despite the climate of this country and all the substandard food in the market.
"I used to get a lot of leisure time at home during lockdown. So I started thinking about my child and made these. Slowly, I saw that other children I knew, even the older ones, started to like it," she said.
Initially, orders came from the building she lives in. She was mostly supplying for domestic events in her apartment complex.
Then Sharmin decided to set up a Facebook, where orders started pouring in. Gradually, Sharmin realised that popsicles were in demand. After accumulating a decent amount of capital, Sharmin took steps to set up a proper business. She started recruiting people, buying machines and setting up an outlet.
Fruitsicles in winter
Fruitsicles has outlets at the foot court of Chef's Table in Gulshan-2, Gulshan Unimart and Dhanmondi Unimart.
Sharmin decides in advance which fruit popsicles will be made on which day of the week. So on the day that the fruit popsicles are to be made, fresh fruits are bought from the market in the morning. Only sugar, salt or dry ingredients are purchased weekly.
Sharmin used to make fruitsicles with her own hands during the lockdown. But when the response started growing, she bought a popsicle-making machine from China and started working on a large scale.
"Now our range has increased. So our items are no longer homemade; but we don't have a factory, they are all handmade. The machines are all manual, except the popsicle machine brought from China," she said.
These ice pops are made with fresh seasonal fruits, eliminating any scope of adulteration. Winter fruits present a challenge, as the fruit season in Bangladesh is limited from Baisakh to Jyeshta. This period sees an abundance of delightful fruits such as mangoes, litchis, watermelons, and pineapples. However, winter restricts options to oranges for popsicles.
To accommodate the colder weather, the range includes dairy-based items, coffee, Milo, and tea popsicles, such as lemonade tea, black tea, and espresso. Raw mango popsicles are preferred by adults, while kids enjoy Milo and orange-flavoured popsicles.
Sharmin said, "Now that the market is running out of raw mangoes, we will no longer make it; instead, we will bring cold coffee. Winter is ahead, and coffee attracts people a lot in winter. Besides, we keep butterscotch, and different creamy types of flavours in winter."
Fruitsicles cost between 180 Tk and 230 Tk.
At present, they have six employees. "The production is about two hundred per day. We sell like a hundred and fifty. The outlet is crowded on holidays, but orders are more on other days. Orders are still being taken through Messenger and WhatsApp through our Facebook page."
Sharmin wants to arrange app-based delivery in future. They also want to deliver their handmade popsicles to corner stores. Before Fruitsicles, Sharmin started the Clay Station in 2016. It is next to the Chef's Table at Gulshan-2.
When she started at home, she got a lot of responses from neighbours. At one stage, orders started coming in for various small family events of 30-40 people. Big orders started to come in October 2022. Various corporate events, banks and even all-day resorts near Dhaka were all looking for Fruitsicles.
In the case of an event, you have to order seven to ten days in advance. Then they are pre-made and frozen. A freezing box is provided during the delivery to keep the products cold for three to four hours.
At the end of the event, boxes are brought back. A freezing system with a charger is also provided for all-day events. So far Fruitsicles has worked with a maximum order of 1,250 people.
The demand for frozen desserts has been around for a while. Alexander the Great loved to eat honeydew ice cream. In the Bible, King Solomon was a fan of iced drinks. Ancient Roman slaves were sent to the mountains to collect ice cubes, which were later crushed and served with fruit and spice syrups. When the Venetian traveller Marco Polo visited Kublai Khan's Chinese court, he was treated to an iced sorbet. In the 17th century, King Charles I of England had ice cream regularly on his dining table.
The presence of such foods can be found in the early history of the United States. Thomas Jefferson (the third president of the United States) entertained many visitors at Monticello with iced sorbet and sweets.
As the heat level rises in Bangladesh, demand for ice cream will only increase.