By Emily Buehler, Weaver Street Market Website Coordinator
We visited the Lunapops production kitchen in 2013. They were making Raspberry Chocolate Chip that day: brilliant pink pops appeared from the molds, glistening in the air. A conveyor belt lined with packaging shuttled the pops away to the machine that sealed their individual wrappers; kitchen staff boxed them by hand. Lunapops owner Jon Mills took us into the freezer, where cases of pops waited to be shipped. Based in Hillsborough, Lunapops is making true artisan pops in small batches: what a big producer makes in one shift would take Lunapops six weeks.
Lunapops originally sold artisan pops with two storefronts at the coast. Jon saw a chance to expand by producing boxes of pops for grocery stores. He moved production to Orange County because of the Piedmont Food and Ag Processing Center (PFAP), a facility that provides shared equipment, kitchen space, and freezer storage.
In the kitchen, we followed the progress of the pops: At a counter, one man poured lemon juice and added it to a container of berries. Once the ingredients were assembled, he used an immersion blender to blend them. Meanwhile, a woman inserted pop sticks into the lids of molds. The molds were filled, covered, and immersed in a freezer bath for 12 to 16 minutes. When the pops were ready, a worker dipped the mold in hot water, which caused the pops inside to come loose from the mold. The lid was then removed, bringing with it double-row of 28 pops.
At the packaging machine, the staff adjusted knobs, lining up a long ribbon of wrapper atop a conveyor belt. Once they had it adjusted, the ribbon began to glide along. They hurried to place pops on top, spacing them to allow the machine to seal the packages. On the far side, someone gathered the pops as they exited the machine and boxed them. Staff packed the boxes into cases, which would sit in the freezer for 24 hours before shipping. “You have to have quality,” Jon told us. “That’s imperative for what we do.” You can watch a video from our tour below.
Lunapops come four-to-a-box in flavors like Sea Salt Caramel, Rhubarb Lime, and Cookies and Cream. Boxes of Lunapops are on sale this weekend, May 29-31, 2015, while supplies last.