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Exotic, Sweet Flavors Drive RTE Popcorn Market Growth

September 26, 2013
by candyandsnacktoday

Cleveland — Named one of the top 10 food trends of 2012 by the Sterling-Rice Group, Inc., ready-to-eat popcorn has grown more than 12 percent in dollar sales throughout the past year, according to Information Resources, Inc. data for the 52 weeks ending Sept. 8.

Its “addictive” quality, Sterling-Rice notes, health halo — it’s inherently whole grain and gluten free — and ability to act as a pallette for other flavors, both sweet and savory, have driven value sales growth far past that of microwave popcorn. The convenience trend spanning all demographics has also added to its success compared with microwave popcorn. Accounting for 65 percent of value sales for the overall popcorn market, according to Euromonitor, Inc. ready-to-eat popcorn sales surpassed $721 million for the 52 weeks ending Sept. 8, IRI found.

Jean Arnold, founder of 479° Popcorn, tells Candy & Snack TODAY exotic flavors in the company’s line, including Ginger Sesame Caramel, Fleur de Sel Caramel and Vietnamese Cinnamon Sugar, fill an unmet need in the market. 479°’s core target audience is “sophisticated snackers” who care about what they eat and drink and are between 25 and 45 years in age. Carrying a SRP of $1.99, 479° offers one-ounce packs and four-ounce reclosable packs with a SRP of $3.99.

Once primarily salt- and butter-flavored, popcorn is being used as not only a vehicle for exotic flavors like those 479° makes, but also indulgent dessert varieties. Hampton Popcorn Co. makes more than 15 sweet varieties ranging from S'mores, caramel corn and graham cracker inclusions drizzled with dark chocolate and marshmallow, to Chocolate Peanut Butter Crunch.

Brands sold in the mass market are capitalizing on the craze as well. Market-leading Frito-Lay Smartfood popcorn expanded its line in 2012 with Smartfood Selects in Parmesan Herb, Buffalo Cheddar and cinnamon brown sugar in six-ounce packs with a SRP of $3.29. With $181 million in sales for the 52 weeks ending Sept. 8, according to IRI, the company has a 25 percent dollar share of the market. Its unit sales grew nearly 10 percent from the same period in 2012.

Popcorn, Indiana and Frito-Lay’s Cracker Jack brand are other market leaders trailing Smartfood (IRI).

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