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Local Entrepreneur Mines a Sweet Niche with Gourmet Marshmallows

Written By Scott Joseph On July 1, 2011

Sugar_PoofsIn the realm of foodstuff specialization, Michele Hickman may have found an untapped niche. Her startup company is called Sugar Poofs, and its sole product line is gourmet marshmallows. These are not the little cylinders you find in a bag in a grocery aisle, Hickman’s marshmallows — or poofs — are handmade and hand cut into little one and a half inch squares.

But what really sets them apart are the flavors. The white Russian is her most popular, says Hickman. Like the drink, her white Russian poofs are made with Bailey’s Irish Cream and Kaluha (and these particular marshmallows are sold only to buyer’s 21 years and older). Other popular flavors include Key lime, orange honey (made with local orange juice and honey), coconut, and banana walnut. Hickman says she has a lot of fun experimenting with new flavors. The only combination that was a total failure was an attempt to create a peanut butter and jelly poof. “Peanut butter does not work with marshmallows,” she says.

Hickman, whose main job is as an interactive marketing strategist for Darden Restaurants, got the idea for a gourmet marshmallow when, at Christmastime, she was drinking a cup of hot chocolate and looked down at the melting marshmallow. “I just had an epiphany,” she says. It isn’t that gourmet marshmallows have never been attempted before, but, says Hickman, no one has done it well. She decided to give it a shot. “I didn’t do it for money or to get anywhere with it,” she says, “I just wanted it to be a hobby.”

But the poofs have received national attention and the orders are flying in from around the country — and quite a few locally, too, including Walt Disney World, for who she has created poofs with mouse ears. Hickman is working on getting the Poofs into some local eateries, but in the meantime, you can order some from her website, sugarpoof.com.

Marshmallows do not have a lot of complex ingredients — mainly pure Florida cane sugar, water, light corn syrup and gelatin — and there’s no baking involved. But it’s how you combine them, says Hickman. That’s where the magic occurs.


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