The Brazilian brand of popped corn arrived from Brazil in the Tri-states on the East Coast this summer with a notable benefit that sets it apart from the many competitors in the category -- it is skinless.
“We are the only skinless popcorn on the shelf in the world today, and while that might not sound like a big deal, for all intents and purposes, it is,” said company co-founder Victor Bauer. He explained to FoodNavigator-USA, “The skin is the terrible part of popcorn that gets stuck in your teeth for hours and stuck in your throat. It is the reason why when you go to the movie you hear people coughing -- and we have eliminated that problem.”
New Pop removes the skin from the corn kernels before they are popped through a top secret method with the help of a machine invented by the company’s other co-founder Eduardo Bifulco, who Bauer described as a “genius when it comes to machinery.”
With the skin out of the way the corn pops with more freedom, resulting in rounder -- but still snackable -- puffs that look more like the iconic Sugar Puffs cereal, which was renamed in 2014 at Honey Monster Puffs to address parents’ concerns about sugar. The iconic craggy shape of popcorn occurs when the inside of the kernel pushes out against the restrictive skin.
Like the cereal, New Pop adds a touch of sweetness to the popcorn. It uses organic cane sugar for the original and a “dusting” of cinnamon or red chili pepper on the other two current SKUs for a trio of popcorns, Bauer said.
A healthier, better-for-you option
While sugar may be a non-starter for some consumers, the product likely makes up for it by omitting oil, butter and salt -- a feat that the company accomplished by popping the corn with pressure rather than heat, Bauer said.
He explained that popping the corn under pressure also “keeps the nutrients in the kernel in the popcorn” in a way that he suggests heat popping in oil does not.
By skipping the fat, the brand offers a product that comes in about 10 to 20 calories lower per serving than many competitors at just 32 calories per 0.7 cup serving, according to Bauer.
He also notes that these extra health benefits come at no extra cost to consumers. Rather, New Pop products often come in at the same price or lower than major competitors’ offerings of the same size, he said.
“Skinny Pop, which is one of the hottest popcorn companies on the market today, have a bag that is 125 grams for $3.49 to $3.99, but our bag is traditionally $2.99 to $3.49,” Bauer said.
Another differentiator for the brand is that its bags are “filled top to bottom” with popped corn, with no added air that can deceive consumers to believe they are buying more product than they are, Bauer said. He explained that this is a priority for the brand in part because his wife loves potato chips and is disappointed when she opens a new bag only to find it “half full.”
The air in most pillow bags helps protect the product inside from becoming crushed or broken, but Bauer said New Pop compensates for this by carefully packing the bags in boxes when they ship.
While New Pop is new to the US -- launching here in July 2016 -- Bauer and his partner are not new to the food and beverage business. Rather, with 40 years of experience, the duo have a tried and true approach to steadily building distribution and sales.
“In order for us to be able to adequately control the brand and sample it in stores, we never open in more than 70 new stores at a time. What we do is we open up in 25 stores, we put them on shelves, we sample them and then we will go to another 25 stores. This way we can control the growth of the product and ensure velocity rather than blanket the region and just wait for consumers to buy it,” Bauer said.
As a result, he predicts that New Pop popcorn should be in about 500 stores by the end of 2016 and will increase distribution by an additional 5-7% in the first quarter of 2017.
“We are happy with our distribution and this strategy” because it means that the company’s product actually moves off shelves rather than sitting in boxes in warehouses, he added.
New Pop also is pursuing growth by adding several new sizes -- including a small bag to be sold on airlines and a mixed pack for easy addition to children’s lunch boxes and family enjoyment, he said.