To Jeff Jetton, the four hours it takes to make Jello shots is an eternity—and an opportunity.
Bars love selling the jiggly, alcohol-infused confections because they’re money makers. But no bartender or sous-chef likes boiling water, mixing the powder, adding the booze, and then … waiting. And making more at midnight after you sell out isn’t an option, so you end up leaving money in partiers’ pockets.
Jetton, a serial entrepreneur who’s started and sold two companies, says he and co-founder Tyler Williams, a former bar owner, have the answer: a high-tech machine the size of a large microwave that turns out a tray of 20 shots in just 10 minutes. It’s taken them three years, and $3 million of the $4.2 million in venture capital they’ve raised, to turn slow-setting gelatin into fast food, but they’re just about ready for launch. They aim to ship the first commercial machine in March.
“There was no innovation around gelatin,” Jetton, 49, says in an interview at his office just south of Portland, Oregon. On the other side of a glass wall, one of his eight employees fiddles with tubes, wires, clear plastic containers, and batteries, simplifying the prototype machine for production. “We started with a yellow pad of paper,” he says.
Jetton and Williams say their machine, called the “Jevo,” will do for gelatin what Keurig did for coffee, and make them a fortune in the process. Keurig, now called Keurig Green Mountain, became the envy of the food-and-beverage business in about 2009 when sales of its single-serving brewing system took off.
The company sells coffee makers yet makes most of its money on the little plastic K-Cups, which caffeine fiends pop into the brewers by the billion each year. In the fiscal year that ended in September, it sold 9.8 billion K-Cups, reaping $3.6 billion in revenue, up 13 percent from the previous year.
Like Keurig, Jetton’s company, Food + Beverage Innovations, plans to make money on gelatin flavor “pods,” not the machines. A pod, enough to make 20 shots, is about the size of a single- serving yogurt. Just drop one in the machine, add water and booze, and hit a button. Ten minutes later, you have a tray of chilly gelatin shots.
“There was no innovation around gelatin,” says Jetton.
Jetton plans to make his Jello shots without Jell-O brand gelatin. (The term “Jello shot” refers to spiked gelatin, regardless of who makes the raw material.) Jetton is sourcing his gelatin through Jel Sert, which is better known for its Otter Pops than its also-ran Royal Gelatin. The company is making Jevo’s powdered mix in 17 flavors, from mixed berry to Margarita.
Kraft Heinz, maker of Jell-O, isn’t a fan. Spokesman Michael Mullen says “Jevo” is an infringement. “Kraft Heinz are [sic] not associated with this company and they are using our trademark without our consent,” Mullen said in an email.