Almost eight out of 10 popcorn products launched in the US in the 12 months to June 2014 were on a 'health' platform of some kind, according to Innova Market Insights.
“Ready-to-eat popcorn has been one of the fastest growing sectors of the snacks market in many countries in recent years, having had something of a makeover to promote healthier, clean-label snacks in a wide range of increasingly sophisticated flavors,” said director of innovation Lu Ann Williams.
As for trends, ‘naturalness’ was a key growth driver, with “over 28% of global launches using either a natural or additive-/preservative-free positioning or both, rising to over 30% if organic claims were included”, said Williams.
Meanwhile, gourmet lines, already established in the US, are starting to gain momentum in Europe as well, bringing a whole raft of more complex flavors and “moving the sector away from its traditional ‘cinema’ image and a simple sweet or salty flavor choice”, she added.
Global launches of popcorn rose by more than 8% in the period, accounting for about 5% of total snacks launches, with the US the leading individual country in terms of launch numbers (the US accounted for 20%+ of total introductions; Europe as a whole accounted for 36%).
According to Diamond Foods CEO Brain Driscoll, the US ready-to-eat popcorn category has been “growing in the double-digits for the past 3-4 years” and is now worth “north of $600m in annual [retail] sales”.
Speaking to analysts on a conference call in June (click HERE
), Driscoll said that 'natural' brands were performing the most strongly in the category, adding: “The ones that are growing fastest are the ones that have clean label, all natural, they are outpacing the entirety of it, they are
driving the growth.”
While the Pop Secret brand of microwave popcorn had been performing well, the overall microwave popcorn category was down in the US, he said.
"Frankly we also recognize that the category has been in decline and that’s why we felt the need to launch into ready to eat popcorn; but we’re going to continue to innovate in microwave."
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