Popping The Corn (The Rise Of Popcorn)


When you leave the cinema, I always notice the large number of popcorn cartons strewn between the aisles. It makes me think how this snack is synonymous with viewing pleasure. Somewhere in the auditorium, during the quiet moment of a film, there is a faint munching. In fairness, I’m also dipping into a carton looking for the largest piece and thinking when do I arrive at the fragments and uncooked grits.

Even if this is not a snack to your liking it is for many others and continues to be a growing trend in the snack market. Allied Market Research (www.alliedmarketresearch.com) valued the popcorn market globally at a neat $9,060 million in 2016 and this was reckoned to reach $15,098 million by 2023. That means a Compound Annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.6% from 2017 to 2023. Another market research firm, Technavio reckons that 59% of the growth in the market will be borne in the Americas generally.

Popcorn appears to be a little more sophisticated lately. It used to be about butterscotch or saltiness, naturally, given the need to raise the flavour tempo of what is a rather bland tasting product. A trip round food exhibitions reinforces the view that there are many more exotic flavours now available and the format for popcorn is also changing slightly. What had happened to crisps in terms of flavour is now available with popcorn. The health element is also improving and drawing on the experiences of marketing/ R&D in the snack food area. Almost half of all the new introductions have some form of health message attached to them.

Microwave cooking of popcorn has extended the convenience element but it’s good to turn back to more traditional processing methods using iron pots, cooking with a small amount of oil and waiting for the pop as the corn heats up. It’s also a vehicle for trying different flavour combinations and I suspect has led the more innovative in product development kitchens to try out their taste buds.

Popcorn Brands

I’ve taken a look at some of the brands currently available in the market place which are now offered by localised producers as well as some of the bigger players in the market place. If you are interested in the brands that look at those from Conagra Brands, Snyder’s-Lance (as Diamond Foods) and PepsiCo under the Frito-Lay brand name. A few other global players are Amplify Snack Brands and the Weaver Popcorn Company.

One famous brand called Orville Redenbacher’s was founded in 1952 who asked a select group of farmers to grow particular popcorn varieties. That tradition continues to this day. It is the only leading brand that professes to use real butter in its formulation. It is also the leading brand of microwave popcorn and has no artificial colour, flavour or preservatives in its formulation.

One of my favourites – Lord Poppington is a branded offering from Savoury & Sweet (now part of Burts Potato Chips Ltd). Grabbed as many bags as I could reasonably hide at an IFE  exhibition, simply to try the range of flavours they offered. Lightly sea-salted, Sweet and Salty, Chilli and Lime, and Four Cheeses are available. The web-site is informative and well-arranged, drawing on aristocratic British themes with a slight quirkiness. The flavours don’t appear too overpowering, especially in sweetness. The Chilli and Lime flavour variant probably provides the strongest flavour combination and most interesting.

Another great UK brand is Popcorn Shed which contains bits of nuts, chocolate and dried fruit so we have a taste of texture as well as flavour. They have Berry-licious, Salted Caramel, Butterly Nuts, Pop’n’choc, Say Cheese! and finally Sweet Cheesus. Popcorn Shed - image of Pecan Pie.

Incidentally, if you are keen on growing your own popcorn then I would recommend a number of sweetcorn varieties which will do the job for you.

Popcorn Products

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