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Published: Thursday, 5/2/2002

Gelatin-shot firm averts solid rebuke

A Toledo company earned national attention for its innovative product this week, but the net effect amounted to little more than a national scolding.

It started Monday with an article in USA Today that focused on debate over the packaging of Zippers - 24-proof, packaged gelatin drinks that are the brainchild of former Genoa High students.

Now, gelatin shots are nothing new, as any college kid (and, I fear, high schooler) already knows.

But Toledo-based Zippers manufacturer BPNC was the first to bring a packaged version of these fruity-sweet concoctions to market.

And Zippers are indeed sold in the same sort of small plastic tubs used for kiddie Jell-O snack packs.

But the cardboard containing an eight-pack of these adult-version goodies is clearly labeled: Contains alcohol - not for children.

Indeed, BPNC vice president Nick Costanzo points out that Zippers has seven such warning labels.

Still, I'd bet the next round that once these itty-bitty plastic tubs are in the fridge - somewhere behind the molding sour cream but in front of last night's leftovers - it would be a simple enough thing for anyone to confuse them with the nonalcoholic variety.

See young Jane! See Jane gulp down a cherry-flavored, 12-proof serving of Rum Rush!

Now see young Dick come into the kitchen! See Dick reach for a serving of yummy lemon Tijuana Tease!

Oopsie!

Oh my, girls and boys! Now who feels like they're on the merry-go-round?!

Hic!

Even the governor's wife is on the record grousing about Zippers - and golly, isn't that bad for economic development?

After all the talk about job loss in northwest Ohio, you'd think the enterprising locals who distribute Zippers would be given the keys to the city instead of a sound, national scolding.

At least, that's the way one BPNC honcho tried to spin it earlier this week, when he pointed out to The Blade that the downtown company (projected sales: $6 million) currently issues paychecks for 13 people - and may soon add 20 more after opening a production facility.

Not bad for a coupla guys who started a company based on that time-honored entrepreneurial formula: Find an unserved market and serve it.

Mr. Costanzo said he and high school pal Brian Pearson got the idea for Zippers after failing to fulfill the request of Mr. Pearson's mother to dash out to the store and bring home gelatin shots.

Naturally, we trust the would-be buyer was of legal age at the time - which brings us to Zippers' target market.

As Mr. Pearson told USA Today, the most likely buyer of Zippers are those partial to sweet drinks - namely, women between the ages of 24 and 44 who enjoy “entertaining nights out with friends [and] fun with no regrets.”

Whoa!

You've got to wonder what's goofier: a little kid confusing 24-proof gelatin shots with the juvie-approved version of snack-pack Jell-O, or a little kid living in a household where Mom is out downing Tijuana Teases again during another one of those “entertaining” nights out with “no regrets.”

Hey, Mom, I was channel surfing last night and I saw you on Wild On. Lookin' good!

Roberta de Boer's column appears Tuesdays, Thursdays,

and Saturdays. Email her at roberta@theblade.com or call 1-419-724-6086.



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