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Snack food sales go pop!Snack food sales go pop!

Non-GMO options and better-for-you ingredients contribute to a popcorn sales explosion in the snack aisle. 

Kelsey Blackwell

June 26, 2013

3 Min Read
Snack food sales go pop!

Popcorn just might be the perfect snack food. Convenient, bursting with flavor and often low in calories, this naturally better-for-you option can satisfy both sweet and salty cravings. Natural consumers certainly have become fans. Popcorn sales swelled 24 percent in the natural channel in the 12 months ending Feb. 16, 2013, according to SPINS. What’s the reason for this sudden growth? After all, popcorn isn’t exactly new. Restaurants may be partially to thank. “Bars and fine-dining establishments began upgrading the quality of bar snacks in the mid-2000s, adding popcorn and caramel corn with global seasonings and fun flavor additions,” says Kara Nielsen, trendologist at the Center for Culinary Development in San Francisco. This kind of innovation has finally made its way to grocery aisles. While popped snack options used to be pretty tasteless (remember rice cakes), new versions offer satisfying flavor combinations and added nutritional benefits to appeal to anyone looking to munch with impunity.

Stock up these 5 booming popcorn snacks

Satisfy salty, sweet or savory cravings with new popcorn snacks 

Sure, popcorn is delicious on its own, but a sprinkle of this or twist of that gives it even more allure. Manufacturers are upgrading ingredients of tried-and-true flavor favorites, experimenting with new combinations and even playing with the texture. Consumers can choose from half-popped kernels, which offer the perfect balance of crunch and softness, kernels covered with ground chia sprinkles to up the nutritional profile, and even new sorghum pops that taste similar to popcorn but are much smaller and hull free. Given consumers’ concerns about genetically modified foods, natural options also point out non-GMO sourcing and clean, minimal ingredients. There’s truly something for everyone.


Pop’d Kerns Original

Perfect for the goldilocks consumer, these kernels are neither too hard nor too soft because they’re partially popped. Think Corn Nuts with less bite. Made with GMO-free ingredients, the Original flavor with just a touch of sea salt is totally addictive. Watch out, though: They also come in Cheddar, Barbecue and Ranch.


G.H. Cretors
Chicago Mix

Move over Cracker Jack, this caramel, cheesy blend satisfies both sweet and salty cravings using GMO-free ingredients and better-for-you sweeteners such as brown rice syrup. Cretors has been making popcorn since the 1800s, and after one taste, it’s easy to see how the company has made a name for itself. Each kernel is perfectly coated with flavor.


Popcorn, Indiana Fit Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Just a handful of this gourmet popcorn, rich in smooth olive oil flavor, goes a long way. But don’t worry if you overindulge. This “naked” popcorn—popped by hot air rather than oil—uses non-GMO corn and has just 40 calories per serving. Also try the Sea Salt, Onion Dijon and Parmesan & Herb flavors.


Lesser Evil Chia Pop Classic Theater Style

Not so fast—this isn’t popped chia, as its name might have you believe. These corn kernels are dusted with chia powder to boost fiber and protein content; a 1-ounce serving offers 3 grams and 5 grams, respectively. What’s more, it’s also certified-organic and Non-GMO Project Verified.


Mini Pops Subatomic Sea Salt

These teeny-tiny organic sorghum kernels are too cute to eat—almost. Though they’re roughly one-third the size of popcorn, each bursts with flavor. Imagine a sweeter, nuttier corn with the added bonus of being free from hulls. I like that this flavor keeps it simple with just a touch of sea salt and a little safflower oil.

About the Author(s)

Kelsey Blackwell

Senior Food Editor, Natural Foods Merchandiser

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