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Popped and Packaged
Bold Corn for a New Generation

Specialty popcorn producers are threatening to do to salty snacks what microbreweries have done to beer: Inject new-category excitement and rapid sales growth into a sleepy product category.


The latest explosion in popcorn isn’t happening on supermarket shelves crowded with microwavable options. It comes from young, health-conscious consumers with a preference for ready-to-eat choices and decidedly adventurous flavors.


Oogie’s Snacks in Denver serves this market with Romano-and-pesto popcorn and a sundried-tomato-and-Parmesan variety. Pop! Gourmet Popcorn has brought out Sriracha, Chinese 12-spice, and piri piri (African bird’s-eye chili) popcorns, while Angie’s Artisan Treats offers flavors including organic maple sea salt and caramel cheddar in its Boomchickapop line.


Small brands like these are generating the fastest growth in the ready-to-eat market, and that’s no accident. Millennials, who turn 20 to 28 this year, display significantly different consumer behavior from the baby boom and Generation X groups before them. As Forbes magazine notes, Millenials “want to develop relationships with brands that deliver a personalized, customized experience. Brands that don’t understand and respond to these needs will fail.”


In popcorn as in microbrews, the brand is experienced as well as consumed. For poppers seeking inspiration, Foodarom suggests introducing Latino chicken, truffle, maple bacon, or Caesar salad flavor to market.