Hey sugar! Summer is here and so is Hey Sugar Candy Co., a sweet business that elevates the humble lollipop to elite status. Owner Debra Cowie’s decadent adult-oriented lollipops – bourbon lemonade, mojito, rosé, and espresso-vanilla, a few of the flavours on her current roster – seem destined to take the wedding and party worlds by storm.
Cowie is a food photographer and stylist in her day job, giving her a keen eye. She’d been thinking about opening a food business for months – something that was both beautiful and flavourful – but was inspired to launch Hey Sugar Candy Co. after listening to a foodie podcast this past February.
Four months later, she’s cooking up lollipops in a commercial kitchen and signing up to showcase her wares at local craft fairs.
Upcoming shows: Freewheeling Craft “backyard socials” at the event space behind Birling (562 Somerset St. W.) on July 12 and August 9. Lollipops are $3 each or 5 for $12.
“I was randomly listening to Cherry Bombe, a podcast that celebrates women in food. They were talking to Jami Curl, who owned a candy company in Portland called QUIN. She talked about her cookbook [Candy Is Magic: Real Ingredients, Modern Recipes]. I was so inspired that I went straight to the library and got the book. The cookbook was set up like a blueprint for launching your own candy company, if that’s what you want to do. Jami explained the best ratios for various candies, so you could then go off and do your own thing. Which is what I did — I started experimenting.”
“My background is photography, so I’m very visual. I love to combine flavours in interesting ways, but the result has to be pretty. I want my lollipops to look like miniature stained-glass windows.
“Sometimes you get a great flavour, but if it’s not pretty I won’t sell it. For instance, I tried to make a lollipop with champagne, but when you reduce it and cook it with sugar, the whole mixture turns an unfortunate rusty yellow colour. Rosé turns a much nicer shade!
“My lollipops with alcohol in them include: mojito, margarita, and bourbon lemonade, which are all totally original recipes. The alcohol is cooked off, but the taste is still there.
“When I started going to my first craft markets, I got more requests for kid flavours. I’ve got flavours like strawberry, blueberry, and sprinkle cake and I came up with a cotton candy recipe yesterday. Research is always ongoing!”
“When I pour the candy into molds, I pour a bit onto a pad so I can take a little taste to make sure each batch tastes right. Because I taste every batch, I never actually eat one of the finished lollipops — I get my fill during the day.
“My favourite lollipop is strawberry. I roast strawberries with vanilla then puree them, which creates a really clean and concentrated flavour. And it’s a really pretty lollipop. The bourbon lemonade is probably my second favourite.”
The Business Model
“I started with lollipops because I thought they’d be perfect for weddings. I’ll branch out, but I’m busy enough for now. Lots of people have been ordering the sample packs and calling to ask about including them in corporate gift packages.
“Right now I am selling through my Etsy site and going to craft markets. I’m hoping to get into retail stores for the fall and Christmas seasons — when you want to be sold at a store, the packaging restrictions get more complex. I’ll see how it goes.”