Popcorn: Today’s Snack “Pop” Star

By Heather Mayer

Styling and Photography by Laurie Mosco

Streaming services have changed how we consume movies— and movie theater snacks! Streaming is bringing the whole theater experience home, including the beloved concession munchies. Popcorn is still the star of the show, with market research firm Information Resources, Inc.  (IRI) reporting the  ready-to-eat popcorn/caramel corn category grew 8.7 percent, with total sales of $1.6 billion in the 52 weeks ending May 16, 2021 (Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery).  Popcorn offers consumers a blank canvas to experiment with flavors.  Time to roll out the red carpet and add some popcorn A-listers to your selection.

Let’s get poppin’ and get to the kernel of who the latest “it” popcorns are at the moment.

Instant “Pop” Star – Ready-to-Eat

ready to eat popcorn, Candy Pop, kettle corn, Skinny pop, Coney Island Classic Kettle Corn, Sweet Chaos, Lesser Evil Popcorn

When their entertainment is instant, you better believe that customers want ready-to-eat snacks.  Customers still long for comfort in the midst of today’s crazy world, so offer a little indulgence with sweet popcorn varieties. Concession favorites paired with popcorn like Candy Pop’s Butterfinger or Twix , and Sweet Chaos’ Peanut Butter Cup Drizzle bring the fun theater experience home.  For those looking to be drenched in indulgence, there’s Marich’s Milk Chocolate Sea Salt Caramel, sweet, buttery caramel popcorn enrobed in rich milk chocolate for a creamy crunch.

Closely following comfort as a catalyst driving sales, is the need for nostalgia. Popcorn has been an American snacking staple for more than 200 years, so opting for classic popcorn flavors along with childhood classics will be a real blockbuster. Kettle corn is a longtime star, so sweeten the deal with cinnamon bun flavors found in Coney Island Cinnamon Bun Kettle Corn, or a dark and white chocolatey drizzle found in Sweet Chaos’ Chocolatey Double Drizzle. For a snacking remake that’s as good as the original, pair popcorn with beloved Oreo® Cookies, like Cookie Pop Oreo. Every day will feel like a premiere party with the flavors of Cold Stone Cake Batter ice cream and sprinkles adorning fluffy popcorn like Sweet Chaos’ Cold Stone Cake Batter.

Over the last two years, the fan club for salty snacks has grown, with marketing intelligence firm, Innova Insights, reporting 80% of consumers they surveyed buying the same amount or more salty snacks (Candy & Snack Today). So play to their savory side. Offer them a blend of sweet and spice with Coney Island Smokin’ BBQ Kettle Corn and Coney Island Jalapeno Poppers Kettle Corn.  Even though they want to indulge, what draws consumers to popcorn is its simple ingredients and its perception as a better for you snacking good guy. Appeal to their lighter side with Lesser Evil Organic Himalayan Gold Popcorn, popped in butter-flavored coconut oil and sprinkled with a pinch of Himalayan Salt for that classic taste. And, way outside the (popcorn) box thinking, brings such bright and bold Skinnypop Twist of Lime — whole grain popcorn with refreshing lime flavor and a touch of salt – all at only 50 calories per cup.

A Star in the Making – Build Your Own

popcorn mix ins, microwave popcorn, kernel popcorn, truffle salt, nutritional yeast, old bay seasoning, Stuffed puffs

Consumers might be having more at-home movie nights, but they’re still looking for an experience.  Mix it up by recommending customer mix-ins customers can use to help their plain popcorn go Hollywood.  We know they’re going to have microwave popcorn or popcorn kernels on hand. In recent years, microwave popcorn sales grew over 17% ,and kernel popcorn over 20% (Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery)!

According to Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery, classic flavors like cheese and salt are at the top of consumer’s cravings list. Make their movie night A-list with the addition of black truffles like in Sabatino Truffle Smoked Sea Salt, or one better a blend of truffles and pecorino cheese like in Sabatino Truffle Zest & Cheese Seasoning. For a better-for-you dairy-free, cheesy option, there’s Bragg Nutritional Yeast. Those looking to snuggle up with a spicy classic, there’s Old Bay Seasoning.

Movie time = family time.  Another family activity that’s flaming hot is making s’mores.  While s’mores might be too messy for cozying up on the couch, there are ways to bring those flavors to the customers’ popcorn bowls.  Like dropping in Kopper’s Milk Chocolate Marshmallow S’mores — a fluffy marshmallow center, drenched in milk chocolate and coated in graham crackers.  If they’re looking to hit the s’mores big time, there’s Stuffed Puffs Big Bites  S’mores — pillowy marshmallows with a chocolate graham cracker center coated in graham cracker crumbs.  S’mores aren’t the only marshmallow flavors that bring the family fun.  Stuffed Puffs Cookies ‘N’ Creme  with a creamy chocolate cookie center and chocolate cookie coating, and Birthday Cake, a creamy cake batter center coated in sprinkles are getting some good buzz too!

Better “Pop” to it and add trending popcorn flavors to your selection

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