Interview: Young entrepreneur creates healthy sugar-free substitute to satisfy sweet tooth
It is a well-known fact that diets high in sugar contribute to childhood obesity and the formation of dental caries. Fortunately, it is now possible to indulge in candy that is healthy, tooth-friendly and sugar-free. In this interview, Dental Tribune International spoke with Alina Morse, the brains behind Zolli Candy. Morse came up with the idea of Zolli Candy when only 7 years old and soon became one of the youngest entrepreneurs in the world. She also runs a nonprofit foundation that helps to promote good oral hygiene in children by supporting oral health education in schools and qualified organizations.
Ms. Morse, could you tell us a bit about yourself and how Zolli Candy was founded?
I’m a 15-year-old entrepreneur and inventor. I’m going to start my sophomore year of public high school this fall. In 2019, I was the youngest CEO of a company on the Inc. 5000 list of the fastest-growing privately held companies in the U.S. My company had three-year revenue growth of 696%, and my top-selling candy line continues to be a favorite one for families around the world.
I came up with the idea after visiting the bank with my dad one day where I was offered a sucker. My dad told me that sugar was bad for you and your teeth. So I asked, “Why can’t we make a lollipop that is good for you?” and I asked and asked until Zollipops were born.
At age 7, while researching ways to create healthy candy I could have all the time, I invented Zollipops—the clean teeth lollipops. I turned to YouTube to learn how to make candy. I made a list of the ingredients to make candy, swapping out the bad stuff for healthy alternatives suggested by my dentist and dental hygienists. I then purchased them on Amazon and at my local retailers.
After about two years of plant trials and taste testing with my friends, my product was on the shelves of Whole Foods Markets in a Southern California region. Now, I sell seven products: Zollipops, Zolli Drops, Zaffi Taffy, Zolli Carmelz, Zolli Gumeez, Zolli Beanz and Zolli Ball pops. We donate 10% of the profits to support oral health education and entrepreneurship in schools.
What does the candy contain, and what ingredients make it tooth-friendly?
Zolli Candy is all-natural, gluten- and dairy-free and vegan and does not contain genetically modified organisms. It contains erythritol and xylitol, the healthy sugar alternatives, in order not only to provide guilt-free sweetness but also to improve oral health. After a meal or a sugary snack, our mouths are acidic. The acid can soften tooth enamel or give energy to those little monsters that can cause caries.
By raising the pH level, teeth feel smooth and clean, and they become stronger. By helping raise the pH in the mouth, Zolli Candy neutralizes acid and helps reduce the risk of caries.
“Zolli shows that kids really can do anything”
In your opinion, what makes Zolli Candy so popular among children and how much of its success can be attributed to parental influence?
Zolli Candy products are delicious treats that kids like to eat and moms and dentists can feel good about giving. Zolli Candy is the “Say yes”, “No more fighting” candy. Zolli Candy is also a great way to start the conversation about oral health. This can be done by asking questions such as “Where does caries come from?” or “Does good whole-body health start with good oral health?” Of course, the fact that Zolli Candy was created by a kid doesn’t hurt, as kids relate to other kids more easily than to adults.
Zolli shows that kids really can do anything. Let’s face it, getting kids to brush their teeth is one of the toughest things a parent has to do when a child is growing up. And even as we age, it is easy to slip up and forget. Having a sweet good-for-your-smile treat is a great option, be it as a reward for brushing or as a reminder to take care of that smile, or simply as an on-the-go way to take care of your smile.
High sugar consumption in children has been continuously linked to poor oral health. How does Zolli Candy contribute to lowering children’s sugar intake?
Zolli Candy has been certified sugar-free by Sugarwise. It is also vegan and allergen-free and contains tooth and tummy-friendly erythritol. Zolli Candy helps balance the pH and reduce carious bacteria as well as the total bacteria in the oral cavity. Zolli Candy also helps stimulate saliva to help balance the pH in the mouth, which helps teeth remineralize and get stronger faster.
It is crucial to educate children about the importance of oral health. What initiatives has Zolli Candy taken to teach children about the importance of establishing good oral health habits?
While researching how to make Zolli good-for-your-smile treats, I discovered that caries was the single greatest epidemic facing kids in the U.S., even though it is a preventable disease! To fight childhood caries, I created my nonprofit called Million Smiles Initiative. In 2020, we will be giving away 4 million products through my foundation to help fight the most chronic childhood disease in the U.S.—dental caries.
Retailers and health practitioners can connect with schools and families in their communities through health events sponsored by the Million Smiles Initiative here.