When I first heard of Zellee I was like, Zee what? My daughter was at the market with me, insisting we buy Zellees. She described them as fruit gel in a pouch, so we asked someone to help us find them but we weren’t successful. After more research I realized that Zellees are a product idea launched here on Maui by Eriko Dowd. She wanted to make a snack food, and based it on her own homemade Japanese fruit gel recipes.
“Most health-conscious consumers don’t eat any Jell-o products because they are typically loaded with sugar and artificial ingredients,” says Dowd. “Having grown up eating my mom’s homemade fruit gels (which is the generic name for Jell-o), I’m a big fan of healthy fruit gels and wanted to share my love for fruit gels with the natural and organic market. We exhibited at Natural Product Expo West in Anaheim in March, and we got really amazing feedback from a diverse group of attendees.”
You probably won’t find Zellee in the big supermarkets yet, but Mana, Down to Earth, Alive & Well, Rodeo General Store, Maui Country Club and Whole Foods Market carry them. They come in three flavors: strawberry, pear and blueberry/grape, and a newly tweaked formula for orange/peach. My daughter loves the strawberry and grape varieties, and I like them all.
My favorite part about Zellee is that it’s organic, gluten-free and vegan. It’s a 60-calorie snack that I can pack in my kid’s lunch guilt-free. Dowd says she experimented quite a bit to get the formula down for mass production.
She tried all kinds of gelling agents, but what ended up working the best is Konjac root. You don’t hear of it much, but I like it because it’s a vegan product that gives the gel body without any aftertaste. Zellees don’t have any added sugar–it’s the fruit purees that provide the sweetness. The result is a short list of pretty recognizable ingredients. The only thing added is organic acerola for additional Vitamin C.
They come in a pouch, and no silverware is needed to consume them. Dowd says they are shelf-stable and don’t require refrigeration, but they taste better cold so most stores have them in their grab-and-go section.
Dowd added that Konjac root is used as a kind of diet food in Asia, where it can fill you up without adding a lot of calories–another reason to add it to my repertoire of snacks. The sweet organic gel is refreshing, tasty and travels well, and just launched in California markets, too.