By Carlynn Woolsey, Foodable Contributor
From June 29th thru July 1st of this year, 2,400 exhibitors set up camp at the 2014 Summer Fancy Food Show in New York City. Product lines ranging from cheese to chocolate to soda were on display, but one particular product kept surfacing amongst the booths: popcorn! With over 80 brands dedicated solely to gourmet popcorn – and others with popcorn products interspersed – one can bet that this trend will continue to pop up in the months ahead.
One of the vendors drawing significant attention at the show was SexyPop, created by Robert Ehrlich. Ehrlich is also the creator and founder behind the ever-popular Pirate’s Booty. SexyPop is putting out traditional flavors like Lightly Salted and Bangin’ Cheddar (made with a sexy, bangin’ secret ingredient, naturally), as well as innovative flavors like Brazilian Coconut and Bodacious Banana. The latter is rich in potassium, antioxidants, and real bananas, so it boasts anti-aging benefits, too. SexyPop popcorn blends have reportedly been shown to have more antioxidants than some vegetables and overall are rich in dietary fiber, making them a healthy choice for the snacking set.
Benefits for Consumers and Business Owners Alike
Antioxidant-infused popcorn aside, the gourmet popcorn trend as a whole is on point with health-conscious consumers who want to grab on-the-go without sacrificing calories and taste. Another reason consumers and business owners alike love popcorn is that it is extremely versatile. From a buying standpoint, whether your preference is for sweet or savory, classic or crazy, there is a popcorn flavor out there for you. Business owners, meanwhile, are excited about the fact that popcorn is a neutral base for creative combinations, which in turn allows them to stand out from other purveyors. Plus, if a flavor experiment goes awry, no one is too concerned about the bottom line given that popcorn is relatively inexpensive to buy and make.
Easy & Versatile
The popcorn business is expanding so rapidly right now in part because it is pretty easy to break into. The equipment required is minimal, as is the labor. Since most people have made popcorn in their own homes, little to no training is necessary. When it comes to space, a single machine will fit within the confines of a small storefront, or even a mall kiosk. Holly Walker-Roose of Rooster’s Gourmet Popcorn in South Jordan, Utah got the idea to start her business after visiting a similar operation while on a family vacation in Texas. She says, “I researched the idea and opened my doors.” Simple as that!
A Worthwhile Investment
Opening a popcorn-centric business seems to be an investment that is paying off for these entrepreneurs, too. According to Darren Tristano, Executive Vice President at Technomic, consumers are willing to shell out a decent amount of money (think $4-$5 per bag) for gourmet popcorn because of the convenience factor and variety in the choices available. Moreover, in the last four years, the sale of ready-to-eat popcorn has seen double-digit growth and is showing no sign of slowing down. Started in 2009, the Doc Popcorn franchise, which claims to be the biggest popcorn retailer in the world, has expanded to over 80 locations with hundreds more in development. At that rate, you can expect a gourmet popcorn shop to be exploding into a town near you any day now!