There’s now a new way to enjoy candy – without the cavities and the tooth decay.
“Zollipops” are 11-year-old Michigander Alina Morse’s creation. They’re sugar-free and gluten-free suckers, made with natural flavors and colors, that are good for your teeth.
Sales are growing each year and Zollipops were the only candy Michelle Obama served at this year’s White House Easter Egg Roll.
Morse said when she came up with the idea for Zollipops, she immediately turned to her dentist and dental hygienist to figure out how to execute the project.
She said dentists are familiar with xylitol and erythritol – the main ingredients in Zollipops.
“Xylitol – it’s made from U.S. birch, and it’s an all-natural sweetener,” Morse said. “And it also helps to raise the pH in your mouth, neutralize the acid and take away the bacteria that causes tooth decay and cavities.”
The basic idea is that these ingredients set up an environment in your mouth that’s healthy, Morse said, as if you’d just finished drinking tap water.
After developing the formula and ingredients, it was time to nail down the flavors and colors.
“I didn’t do it alone,” Morse said. “I asked my parents to help me and I have a younger sister, and she’s seven, but she even came up with the name for Zollipops.”
Her best friends helped too. They were the Zollipops taste testers.
Morse said it took 18 plant trials before she and her family found a plant that could make Zollipops.
But eventually, it all came together. Zollipops are now in stores like Meijer, Whole Foods and Toys “R” Us around the U.S.
Morse said her long-term goal is “to help every kid in America smile.”
“For every kid to have a clean mouth, a healthy smile and to have a Zollipop in their hands,” she said.
Part of Morse’s motivation comes from knowing that tooth decay is one of the greatest epidemics for kids in America today. That’s according to the U.S. Surgeon General, she said.
Another motivation is to inspire other kids to become “kid-preneurs.”
“Not only has [Zollipops] made a difference in kids’ lives, but it’s also made a difference in kids believing in themselves – that they can do anything if they work hard, try, believe and never give up,” she said. “Because kids can really do anything adults can do.”
The Next Idea is Michigan Radio’s project devoted to new innovations and ideas that will change our state.