Food and beverage industry veteran Vic Bauer will introduce in major retailers later this quarter the reminted Papa’s Pops skinless popcorn, which uses a proprietary popping process to remove the hull from traditional popcorn so that consumers who love popcorn, but don’t like the skin getting stuck in their teeth or who have trouble digesting the hull, can once again enjoy the food.
The relaunch comes almost four years after Bauer first introduced the beloved Brazilian snack to the US as New Pop in 2016, but which was discontinued -- much to many consumers’ chagrin -- because of a disagreement with the product’s manufacturer.
“What basically happened with New Pop was I had a partner who was in Brazil and who was manufacturing the product and shipping it over to us, but unfortunately the relationship ended in not a good way,” Bauer said.
He explained that “unfortunately, some of the information he was providing us was not the correct information and we just decided that it was better to terminate our relationship.”
Despite the setback, Bauer said he still loved popcorn and the popcorn category and wanted to bring back his unique skinless version that so many consumers had fallen in love with under the New Pop Brand.
“For 18 to 22 months, I scoured the country to find a kernel supplier and then a company that could perform the proprietary process on the kernel. And then it took me nine months to develop six flavors – we are very concerned about flavors and we are very concerned about nutrition and quality. I wanted to make sure that when we launched this product that it would be the perfect product out there,” he said.
And, he said, it is. “The results have been phenomenal. … The honest to goodness truth is that as good as New Pop was, Papa’s Pops blows it away.”
A helping hand
The reboot wouldn’t have been possible without the help of several high profile investors, including other entrepreneurs and celebrities, he added.
The $1.25 million seed round of investment was led by Chetrit Ventures, WorldState, Talent Resource Ventures, Tinder founder Justin Mateen and RXBAR founder Peter Rahal.
These investors bring more than just money, Bauer said. They also are “great strategic partners,” with a deep understanding of the ins and outs of the supermarket business, insights on how to effectively communicate with consumers and how to design an attention-grabbing and appealing package, he explained.
“Their input is immensely appreciated,” Bauer added.
Broad distribution out of the gate
The new brand also has an impressive roster of retail partners, with the first bags of Papa’s Pops hitting Walmart shelves the first week in March, and a 14-16 week program slated for Sam’s Club. Other retailers include Wakefern, Jewel-Osco, King’s and others.
While some startups might be intimidated by such broad distribution out of the gate, Bauer said he is confident that Papa’s Pops can handle fulfillment with his current partners.
“Popcorn is a very crowded category and the competition is very fierce, but we are bringing on the right brokers as well as hiring a vice president who has 10-15 years of experience in the popcorn business and was involved with other popcorn companies that were sold,” he explained.
He is also confident that consumers will love the flavors – and the price – of Papa’s Pop.
The initial line up will include classics, such as Sweet & Salty, White Cheddar and Sweet Cinnamon, and also some unexpected – but well-loved – flavors, including Creamy Ranch, Honey Mustard & Onion and Smokin’ BBQ. All of the flavors are made with clean ingredients, Bauer adds.
Aggressive promotions will help drive initial sales
Papa’s Pops go-to-market strategy also will focus heavily on promotion so that the product will be available at a price that consumers also will love.
“Initially we will offer what we call BOGO, which is buy one, get one free, and the quarterly we will run some very competitive pricing promotions, such as two five-ounce bags for $5 – so basically $2.50 a bag compared to our competitors who are anywhere from $3.99 to $4.49 for a similar sized bag,” he said.
Offering prices like this out of the gate isn’t easy and means the company will initially sacrifice profit margins, but Bauer said the short-term squeeze is worth it to build up distribution and secure a positive relationship with consumers.
Papa’s Pops also will focus heavily on trade engagement, with the company hitting 11 trade shows been now and June.
While the schedule sounds exhausting, Bauer said, it is worth it because it will help get Papa’s Pops name and product out there. And, he added, “quite truthfully, once a buyer or consumer tastes the product, it becomes a very easy sell for us.”