Probiotics Infused into Gut-Healthy Versions of Classic Treats
by Sheila Julson
Jared Toay has fond childhood memories of enjoying cool confections from the neighborhood market and ice cream truck. As an adult, Toay still loves frozen pops, and he’s crafted healthy probiotic versions in exotic flavors, along with probiotic sodas, which he sells through his business, Jared’s ProPops.
Toay was born in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. His family lived in different areas throughout the state until he was 7 years old, and then his father’s job brought the family to Oklahoma. Toay earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Oklahoma State University and worked for many years in money management. “People who know me now have a hard time believing I was a suit and tie guy,” Toay says.
While experiencing a stressful period in his life, Toay says the pressure took a toll on his health. A poor diet also led to drastic weight fluctuations and affected his digestive system. After researching how the body processes food, Toay introduced fermented foods into his diet.
“I noticed a significant change in my health,” Toay recalls. “My digestion improved and I had more energy. The key is not only to focus on nutrients and eating healthy, but also how the body uses the foods. Probiotics is a large part of that.”
In addition to changing his diet, Toay began lifting weights. He also traded the suit and tie for a job as produce manager at a natural foods store. During his bodybuilding sessions, people began asking him for fitness tips—particularly about foods—and he realized he had knowledge to pass along.
Toay formed a fitness consulting business, Be A Fitness Freak, and began teaching clients how to incorporate fermented foods into their diets. He regained control of his own health, and he also wanted to instill wholesome eating habits in his children.
“The frozen pops came about as a way to try something different for the kids,” Toay relates. “When most people think of fermented foods, they think of sauerkraut or yogurt, but there are people who don’t like sauerkraut and there are those who have dairy issues. I started to focus on water-based probiotic products and started making frozen pops.”
After trial and error, Toay hit upon a successful combination of flavors and created the perfect probiotic frozen pop. He started selling them at farmers’ markets, and within this past year he’s been able to operate Jared’s ProPops full time. He’s experimented with 150 flavors, and customer favorites include strawberry, pineapple, toasted coconut and Vietnamese coffee.
Before Toay began making frozen pops, he made fermented soda, which he says is a more difficult process due to working with and storing carbonated probiotic drinks. After he mastered the frozen pops, he ran a fundraising campaign through Kickstarter and was able to raise money to resume probiotic soda production. He now produces about 200 pops per week and distributes approximately seven cases of soda weekly.
Toay has recently partnered with Urban Agrarian owner Matthew Burch to sell both the frozen pops and sodas at the Oklahoma City-based business. “I’ve always loved Urban Agrarian,” says Toay. “It’s a unique business model. When I made the decision to expand my product to Oklahoma City, I didn’t look anywhere else.”
Toay gets many ingredients locally whenever possible. He recently made a batch of soda with cucumbers purchased from Urban Agrarian. “People also bring me stuff every week,” he says. “A customer brought a bag of peaches from a backyard tree and asked if I could do something with that, so I made peach pops.”
Toay’s favorite part of his work is the interaction with both adults and children at farmers’ markets and educating people how to get probiotics naturally from foods. While he’s best known for frozen pops and sodas, he also offers probiotic granola, and energy shots and gels in some store locations.
“Jared’s ProPops is about living food,” explains Toay. “When you take something living in nature, you can do so many things, whether it’s foods, health and beauty products, fruits, nuts—it’s amazing. I have a vision of where I see this business going. I want people to associate Jared’s ProPops with good, healthy, probiotic natural foods and want to offer quality products that people like.”
Find Jared’s ProPops at Urban Agrarian at 1235 SW 2nd St., in Oklahoma City. For more information, call 405-231-1919. See ad on page XX.
Sheila Julson is a Milwaukee-based freelance writer and contributes to Natural Awakenings magazines throughout the country.