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CNM Small Business Development Center's Star Client, Pop Fizz, on the Rise

The company, which received support from the Albuquerque Small Business Development Center, is famous for its delicious paletas and ice cream
CNM Small Business Development Center's Star Client, Pop Fizz, on the Rise
Many of the Pop Fizz paleta flavors are based on traditional Mexican flavors.

Aug 31, 2018

One of Carlos Alvarez’s first memories is from a paletería, or ice cream shop, back in his hometown of El Paso when he was four. In the memory, he’s drinking a pecan shake and can still distinctly remember the taste.

Fast forward 29 years and now Carlos, along with his brother Lorenzo and his dad Rafael, owns Albuquerque’s most popular paletería—Pop Fizz. The company, which started back in 2013 with a small location in the South Valley, has grown to include a humming retail operation at the National Hispanic Cultural Center, two ice cream trucks, and ice cream cart, and now a wholesale manufacturing center (and drive-up retail window) on 4th street (the Pop Fizz Labs) that had its grand opening on Aug. 31.

“It feels great to be able to stand back and see what we’ve built,” Carlos says.

Carlos Alvarez at the new Pop Fizz walk- and drive-up window and manufacturing center
Carlos Alvarez at the new Pop Fizz walk- and drive-up window and manufacturing center.

The company—which has a well-recognized logo designed by Carlos—is a fixture at events around Albuquerque and has steadily built a strong local following. But they’ve also received lots of strategic guidance from business advisors including the Albuquerque Small Business Development Center (SBDC), which has helped them with everything from business planning to accounting.

“It’s been exciting to help Pop Fizz because they’ve really found their niche here in Albuquerque,” says Tim Harjo, the director of the Albuquerque SBDC. “They have incredible brand loyalty.”

A large part of Pop Fizz’s success is based on their product. Their paletas are creative and delicious, and a fun treat during Albuquerque’s long, hot summers. But the company has also been successful because they’ve paid close attention to their local audience.

Carlos says that when he moved to Albuquerque from El Paso he quickly noticed how much pride the city takes in its history. There was a desire for more businesses that catered to that history—and paletas, with their strong ties to Mexico—were a perfect fit.

Making paletas at the new manufacturing facility.
Making paletas at the new manufacturing facility.

Carlos said Pop Fizz also made a strong commitment to community partnerships. They wanted paletas that played off local flavors and used local produce. While flavors like watermelon and strawberry are perennial favorites, Pop Fizz loves to experiment and has created flavors like lavender lemon and cucumber lime chili, with the lavender and cucumbers coming from local farms just down the street.

“We saw that there was a lot of excitement around events like the local growers' markets and we wanted to cater to that excitement and be a part of it,” Carlos says.

Going forward, wholesale is the big push. Right now Pop Fizz has about 25-30 flavors they regularly sell at their retail locations and they’ve identified eight of those that they’ll be selling to natural foods and high-end grocery stores throughout New Mexico. Once the New Mexico distribution system is up and humming, Carlos says they’d also like to start distributing to neighboring states including Colorado, Arizona, and Texas. Pop Fizz makes a couple ice cream flavors and sells them at their retail locations, so that will be an expansion push, too.

“We’re excited about growth,” Carlos says. “But we’re also really excited about all the community buy-in we’ve received. We really wouldn’t be here without everyone who’s supported us.”

The outside of the new Pop Fizz manufacturing center, which is located on 4th Street.
The outside of the new Pop Fizz manufacturing center, which is located on 4th Street.