Upmarket and trendy brands have dragged popcorn out of the cinema foyer and into widespread distribution in supermarkets and convenience stores.
The segment ticks plenty of boxes: it’s cheap and easy to make, can be produced to be relatively cheap and meets the requirements of consumers looking to cut out certain elements from their diets.
Salty Dog markets vegan-friendly popcorn and the gluten-free range of Darling Corn toasted kernels, which come in Sea Salt, Smoked, Barbecue and Roasted Jalapeno flavours.
Owner Judy Willis says: "Demand for free-from food, such as vegan or gluten-free products, is increasing all the time. Happily, many snacks are gluten-free and vegan-friendly anyway but it’s a good idea to flag this so that people buying snacks are aware.
"Popcorn is a snack that’s really flying at the moment. It’s one of the grocery sector’s fastest-growing products, so I’d definitely suggest that forecourt operators take a look at the range of popcorn products available."
Lynne Price at Kettle Foods says nuts, seeds and popcorn are all growing as the health agenda increasingly takes centre stage. Kettle launched Metcalfe’s Skinny Salted Caramel popcorn last year, and claims it has a saturated fat level that is 30% less than typical salted caramel popcorns on the market.
"Delivering better-for-you products with no compromise on taste is key to increased consumption in the category," says Price. "Popcorn is viewed as one of the few snack products that can be both lighter yet still deliver indulgent taste."
Walkers has explored this indulgence angle for the launch of its Pop Works range in 2016 to which it added the Glazed & Glory and Drizzled Delights ranges in sharing bags last autumn. "The newcomers are tapping into the sweet treat and pure indulgence occasions, which are fast-growing sectors in the popcorn segment," says Pepsico category insights director Pierre Jackson.