The personalities and story behind the popular Dr Feelgood ice pops and treats.
Words Carolyn Enting. Photography Andrew Coffey.
Sweet treats don’t get much better than Dr Feelgood’s refined sugar-free, hand-crafted creamy pops and iceblocks. Craig Jackson and Melanie Bridge are the brains behind this ‘good as’ fun and flavoursome artisan brand.
You and Melanie have a background in the film industry.
How did you end up making iceblocks?
I needed a change, after 30 years of working in TV postproduction, film and commercials. We had always talked about food ideas and started trying to make a healthy probiotic drink, but quickly realised that the drink market was very noisy and shelf space at a premium. One day a friend gave us a Zuko pop mold. We froze the drink – light bulb moment for both of us. We thought “easy peasy”… how wrong could we be. It’s been an amazing yet difficult trip but we were determined to get through as we had so much faith in our product.
How would you describe Dr Feelgood’s point of difference?
The initial drink idea was for a healthy probiotic drink that was good for you and tasted great. After endless testing and a solid market validation we got to the pops. We took the values that we wanted to hang around the drink brand and used them as a frame for the pops. We quickly moved on from the probiotic idea when all of the lab tests proved that it was virtually impossible to have any live probiotics left by the time they go to market. The other thing we were interested in was reducing sugar in the diet, so we decided to try and make sugar-free pops, experimenting with every natural sweetener known to man. Unfortunately, ice pops need sugar, it’s what gives them their ‘bite’ and stops them being rock hard pieces of ice that you would break your teeth on. So instead of being sugar-free we opted for the least refined natural sweeteners available, things like low GI organic coconut sugar and no fructose brown rice syrup. We tried to make them as healthy as they could be, using as many organic ingredients as we could find, and trying to cram real food value into them. Our pink lemonade pop uses a smidge of beetroot to get the pink; all of the flavours are gluten-free, no nuts, no soy, no eggs. It’s definitely a treat food, but one that’s as healthy and as tasty as we can make it.
When Good discovered Dr Feelgood on a hot summer’s day we fell in love with the Apple & Mint-flavoured iceblock. What inspired you to put those flavours together?
Melanie is the flavour guru. We all have ideas but Mel nails the left of centre flavour combos every time.
Your Chocoholic Pop was a finalist at the 2016 NZ Food Awards…
In 2015 we entered both the Chocoholic and the Raspberry Lime and Coconut into the NZ Food awards. The Raspberry won the Indulgent category and the choc didn’t even make it to the finals. I guess I got the pip a bit and entered it again in 2016; it made it to the finals. I truly believe the Chocoholic is simply ‘chocowooohooo’ – they are truly wondrous. We have many customers who can’t go past them. We put a freezer into Simon Gault’s Sous Chef Deli in Takanini on the strength of the chocolate. Simon is what we class as a “super fan”. He serves them to his friends at his dinner parties.
What are other frozen innovations from the Dr Feelgood kitchen?
Once we had the first range up and running we developed the Body Block range – a low-sugar, 20 grams of protein per serve iceblock on a stick. And Mel also had the brainy idea to do a champagne pop. We call these Frozen Flutes.
How did you first begin peddling your frozen wares?
Before we launched into the market we had planned to start small at markets and the like, but a combination of demand that the brand created, and the realisation that scale was the only way a product like this would work, I headed out with a portable freezer and pops and started cold calling. We have a solar powered freezer bike that we take to markets. About 10 months ago I found a 1988 St Johns ambulance on TradeMe with a half hour left on the auction. I rang the guy in Thames and had a chat, bought it, jumped on a bus and picked it up. I came down the drive with the lights and siren going. I got a pretty frosty reception, but it’s now the Rapid Response Pop delivery vehicle. And thanks to Mel’s great design skills on the signage it draws attention wherever we go, and it’s a lot of fun to drive.
What are your personal favourite iceblock flavours, and why?
Going into this summer we changed out five of our flavours. We have upset a few fans but we knew we could do better. We’ve gone for lush flavours like white chocolate with a passionfruit jelly top, and chocolate with a raspberry jelly top, and banoffee pie. We also do two icy flavours – pink lemonade and natural cola. The mighty Chocoholic is still there alongside these five new flavours, with Dr Feelgood’s core philosophy of only using the best organic and natural, unrefined ingredients as we can. We also now use Lewis Road Creamery milk in our creamy pops.
Dr Feelgood is a great name. It’s fun but also makes sense.
What was the inspiration behind that?
The name was all Mel’s idea. I had come up with all manner of naff names then she came up with Dr Feelgood. Genius. Trying to come up with a name that insinuated it was good for you, that we could also have some fun with and didn’t appear to ‘try hard’ was difficult. It took a few weeks and many lists. In the end Dr Feelgood won to a long list of more earnest-sounding, pretentious names.