Nice Work If You Can Get It: Otter Popularity

An occasional survey of jobs both unusual and extraordinary, and the people who make them happen.

Juan Booth, 53, has the kind of job that makes your mouth water. For almost forty years, Booth has been Chief Flavor Technician at Jel-Sert, the company which produces the world-famous Summertime treat, Otter Pops.

“It’s exciting,” says the grandfatherly Booth, “And fun, but it is also hard work.”

Booth isn’t kidding, having spent twelve years and thousands of dollars in tuition to achieve his multiple degrees in Food Chemistry. “This job requires long hours, just like any job, but at least there’s plenty of Otter Pop breaks during the day!”

Booth began his career in 1973 with National Pax, the originators of the Otter Pop brand, before moving to Jel Sert when that company acquired the rights in 1996. “They added more fruit juice to the Otter Pop,” says Booth, “Which opens up a lot of doors for natural flavorings.”

What exciting new flavors of Otter Pop might be waiting in our grocers’ freezers down the line? “Well, I’ve almost perfected a peppermint pop, which ought to be extra refreshing on hot days. We’ve also been experimenting with flavors for a gourmet Otter Pop line aimed towards adults, with flavors like Pina Colada, Cosmopolitan and Mojito.” Booth beams as he describes the process of trial-and-error. “The Mojito has been a real conundrum for me – I like the authenticity of real mint leaves in the pop, but they have a tendency to complicate the mouth feel. People like their Otter Pops smooth and juicy!”

Despite Booth’s many flavor breakthroughs, Otter Pop’s six flavors have remained unchanged since the mid-1970s replacement of Rip Van Lemon with the fruit-punch flavored Pancho. How does he feel about so much of his closed door research going unseen – and untasted – by Otter Pop aficionados?

He responds with a warm, nostalgic smile. “When something is almost perfect,” he says, “Why rush to change it?”
- Jon Morris

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