Caught on camera at Expo West: Popcorn was a mature category and it’s totally reinvented itself

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Popcorn Hydrogenation Trans fat

Ready-to-eat popcorn sales surged 60% to $750m between 2012 and 2014, while microwave popcorn sales dropped 8% to $830m, so what lessons can we learn from all this?    

FoodNavigator-USA editor Elaine Watson hooked up with Kristy Lewis, co-founder, Quinn Popcorn; and Nick Fereday, executive director, Rabobank International at the 2015 Natural Products Expo West show in Anaheim to find out more…

Fereday, who has recently written a report on the popcorn market (click HERE​) said: “Popcorn was a mature category and it has totally reinvented itself… We’re seeing double digit growth in the ready-to-eat market and it’s not entirely cannibalizing sales in the microwave market, it’s growing the whole category.”

So who’s driving the growth?

“A lot of the innovation is done by small companies,”​ said Fereday. “But you now see some of the bigger companies trying to get in on the act too; they are putting in the investment as well.”

But is this kind of growth trajectory sustainable, or will consumers eventually tire of ready-to-eat popcorn?

“That’s always the million dollar question: Is it a fad or is it a trend​?” said Fereday. “But I think it’s gone from fad to trend.”

quinn kale popcorn

Microwave popcorn reinvented at Quinn Popcorn

Meanwhile, Kristy Lewis at Quinn Popcorn said microwave popcorn was also ripe for reinvention, and that if you strip away the partially hydrogenated oils and some of the unfamiliar ingredients used in the bags, it’s a very simple snack.

(Quinn packs feature a pouch of ingredients you shake on to the popcorn yourself, which allows it to have a cleaner ingredients deck).

quinn popcorn olive oil
Quinn’s Olive Oil and Herbs microwave popcorn – its lowest calorie option – contains organic popcorn kernels, extra virgin olive oil, nutritional yeast flakes, sea salt, organic basil, oregano, garlic and tarragon. It contains no preservatives such as Propyl Gallate or TBHQ.

We started with microwave popcorn and we’re the only ones on the market using a compostable paper bag with no chemicals​ [no perfluorinated compounds in the bag liner] and no susceptor ​[metalized plastic heating element with metalized film or graphite and Polyethylene terephthalate] in the bag," ​said Lewis.

More recently, the company has also moved into the ready-to-eat market with its ‘farm to bag’ approach, which enable consumers to enter the batch number on the bag at  to learn exactly how the popcorn was made and where each ingredient comes from, said Lewis.

Quinn Popcorn farm to bag initiative

Flavors in the Non-GMO Project Verified range include Kale and Sea Salt, Popped with Organic Coconut Oil, California Olive Oil, and Cheddar & Chipotle.

“We want people to know where their food is coming from, we’re offering 100% transparency.”

So what popcorn-related trends caught her eye at Expo West?

Said Lewis: “We’re seeing a lot of popcorn clusters, people combining popcorn with oats and quinoa and other ancient grains.”

Snacking trends graphic new

Interested in snacks? Check out the highlights from FoodNavigator-USA's Snacking Trends Forum (now available on demand HERE​).

 ‘Packaged food doesn’t have to be junk food’

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