This blog is in honour of National Popcorn Day.

I am a huge fan of the current popcorn craze the UK snacking market is experiencing. It’s about time that Butterkist were given a run for their money. Popcorn has moved from being a super sweet snack that was only purchased by the trough for £5 to be consumed alongside a bucket of carbonated soft drink at the local cinema to a fun, trendy, lifestyle product that now proudly sit in any credible retailer’s Meal Deal. The trend has been an absolute phenomenon and has taken the large suppliers my surprise. So why has it been so successful? Well in my opinion the new sub-category of premium popcorn has filled a very apparent consumer need that other pieces of innovation have failed to address for a number of years: namely it’s a healthy snack. Now you might say that there is a raft of healthy snacks clogging up snacking fixtures from Pops to Walkers Sunbites and whilst this is true these products haven’t fully addressed the snacking consumer’s need. All the predecessors have focussed on being healthy whereas the premium popcorn category has focussed, exclusively, on fantastic flavours…and it’s healthy. In this category FLAVOUR IS KING! So if you can produce a great tasting product that also happens to be healthy, you’re onto a winner! That’s exactly what companies, such as Propercorn, have done.

As a buyer I was presented hundreds of different premium popcorn brands as soon as the trend started to gain traction and, in my opinion, there was one big difference between the suppliers that got it right and were successful and those that got it wrong and were unsuccessful: they understood their consumer. I’ll compare two brands on opposite ends of the success spectrum: Sexy Pop and Propercorn. Sexy who? Exactly! Sexy Pop as a food tasted OK, not phenomenal but it was OK. As a brand it was loud, brash and confident. Conversely, Propercorn as a food tasted fantastic, really great flavour profiles. As a brand it was very trendy, fun and didn’t take itself too seriously. Sexy Pop was much cheaper and offered a much higher margin whereas Propercorn was quite expensive versus other similar products on the fixture. Propercorn, for me, embodied everything that is right about the category. It’s on trend, it’s different, it drives new shoppers into the category and it adds value back into a declining market. Sexy Pop embodies everything that the category isn’t. Propercorn has, so far, seen off some ardent competition from the likes of Metcalfe’s, who have just sold their soul for investment, and Walkers, who did react with their own offering (Sensations and Mix-Ups) but it completely missed the consumer they should have been targeting.

I do predict that the popcorn bubble will burst and I hope that Propercorn are able to diversify to move with the times, however, at this current moment, there seems to be no indication that this phenomenon is going to slow down.

Product Review: Popcorn Kitchen – Sea Salt & Olive Oil
Rating: 6/10
Appeals to: health conscious shape-watchers
The packaging was what led me to buy this pack. It’s quirky, simple and fresh. I like the personal touch introducing the makers on the back and I like how simply the messages are communicated. You don’t need to study the pack long to get a real good understanding of what it’s all about. Does it ‘pop’ from the shelf? No, but, as someone who is already bought into the category, I was willing to give it a try.
£2.50 – this is not value for money and the pack doesn’t scream premium like Joe&Seph’s does. I may be doing the manufacturers a disservice here, and I apologise if I am. I picked these up from my local farm shop, which isn’t a very good one and does enjoy getting fat off some unnecessarily large margins.
You can tell the quality of a good popcorn before you even eat it. If the manufacturing process has been considered and cared for the corn kernels will have expanded at the right speed, temperature and with the right amount of oil and seasoning. The result should be a beautiful, fully expanded butterfly corn like a cream and gold rose. This bag had an uneasy blend of mushroom and butterfly corn and the pieces were uneven, closed and ugly. How disappointing. Flavour-wise there was a good fluffy texture but the only flavour that came through was the salt. I was really looking forward to seeing how the olive oil manifested itself. I wanted to taste it’s velvety sheen; but I couldn’t. The bag was gluten free, wheat free, dairy free, nut free, soya free, vegetarian, vegan, GMO free and, unfortunately, flavours free.
Verdict – in a word, weak. This bag does not do the expansive category justice. Propercorn can afford to stand down from their post as there won’t be a fight for the top spot just yet.
Northern Munkee.

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