Popcorn America's Favorite Snack

Did you know, that by volume, popcorn is America’s favorite snack?  First consumed over 5000 years ago, popcorn continues its upward trend in popularity and is projected to be eaten by 234 million Americans in 2020.  The United States is the biggest producer and consumer of popcorn.  Though popcorn remains an integral part of our movie theater experience, most of it is consumed at home. 

As Americans are divided between sweet, savory and plain profiles the opportunity exists to introduce regional, cultural and global flavor trends.  More on this further in the article.  According to National Today, in a survey of 1000 Americans, the following data was gathered regarding popcorn eating habits.

·        92% of respondents love popcorn

·        40.82% preferred sweet

·        37.76 preferred savory

·        21.43% preferred plain

Interestingly, despite the above preferences, it turns out butter flavor is the most popular flavor.  Here are the top 10 favorite flavors –

1.      Butter – 30.90%

2.      White Cheese – 16.20%

3.      Caramel Corn – 15.80%

4.      Kettle Corn - !5.10%

5.      Cheddar Cheese – 11%

6.      Garlic – 3.4%

7.      Turtle – 3.0%

8.      Plain – 2.3%

9.      Zebra – 1.3%

10.   Red Velvet – 1.0%

So, you might ask, what are the opportunities for introducing new flavor profiles into the popcorn category?  Let’s start here -  “…new research from Mintel reveals that Americans are now embracing flavor innovation, from indulgent to savory, driven by the increasingly popular ready-to-eat (RTE) popcorn category.”  In further support of the Mintel research, it has been found that, “…consumers today are interested in flavor innovation—both familiar and unexpected—in the popcorn category.”  With this info in hand it would seem that the door is wide open for some fun flavor work to be done within the popcorn category.  These are currently some areas of flavor that are trending within the snack aisle –

·        Hot and spicy snack profiles have seen a 33% increase since 2016

·        Regional US BBQ – Carolina, Memphis, Kansas City, Texas

·        Fermented Flavors – sriracha, gochujang, miso, kimchi, pickle

·        Bakery – chocolate, caramel, red velvet, sugar cookie, sweet and spicy

·        Specific – it’s no longer just BBQ but regional; not chocolate but Belgian; not lemon but Meyer Lemon; not salt but Sea Salt; not cheddar but Vermont Cheddar, etc.

·        Global – some examples above but others could be, Thai Green Curry, All Dressed (Canada), shellfish flavors from Asia, salsa profiles from Latin America

Could it be any more obvious that there is huge opportunity within this snacking category to create, introduce and deliver exciting new flavor profiles?  As product developers let’s get out there and explore, eat, formulate and share our knowledge in the form of irresistible, craveable flavor profiles.

by Chef David White, Kagome Corporate Chef

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With 10 facilities and growing, Kagome has aggressively expanded operations from its base in Japan to Taiwan, China, and Malaysia. Kagome Japan has an exceptional commitment to quality, teamwork, science and technology. Kagome Japan is home to the world's largest privately held tomato seed bank with 7,500 varieties. It is also where many of our proprietary processes were nurtured and brought to fruition. Kagome Japan's core values are shared across its family of companies.

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