The acclaimed designer and architect Charles Eames once advised, “Choose your corner, pick away at it carefully… to the best of your ability, and that way you might change the world.” For a New York-based snack food company specializing in “better for you” snacks, the choosing of corners has influenced new engineering in edible excellence which has changed both flavor -and form- in the world of popcorn.
Whether salted, buttered or cheesed, complemented by caramel or kettle-sweet, the scrumptious crunch in a puff of popcorn has been pleasing palates for so long that it’s difficult to consider going to the cinema or sitting among friends to watch the game without popcorn somewhere in the picture. Popcorn has been an accent of appetites for centuries, preceding even the encounters Cortez had with the Aztecs who not only used it as a food source, but also as decoration in ceremonial headdresses and rituals worshiping Tlaloc, the god of rain and fertility (Redenbacher could only dream to be so potent). The modern era has seen popcorn carted, cracker-jacked, jiffy-fied and microwaved, and while some flavoring has penetrated into the popping, popcorn’s basic shape and texture has been essentially what it has always been… until now, thanks to Medora Snack’s creation of a lip-smackable snackable sensation called PopCorners. They may look like a triangular-shaped chip and are as functionally munchable and crunchable as a chip, but PopCorners are indeed popcorn. “We describe it as ‘the new shape of popcorn,’” says PopCorners President and Chief Operating Officer Barry Renow. With Willy Wonka-esque mystique, Renow is not particularly keen on divulging any trade secrets, but will concede PopCorners are engineered from “proprietary machining” developed by “private owners who are pioneers in the popping world.”
Better for You
As an edible innovation, PopCorners has not only redefined popcorn’s structural dimensions, but also its compositional dynamics. While PopCorners are made from corn, the point here is that traditional popcorn’s size and shape can be very problematic for some, in degrees exceedingly more harmful than, say, that little crisp of the corn-kernel’s residual shell that wants to wedge itself between the tooth and gum (very annoying when a toothpick isn’t handy). Traditional popcorn is sometimes difficult for small children. As choking is one of the leading causes of death for children age 5 and under, the American Academy of Pediatricians has advised parents to prohibit their children from eating it. In fact, several years ago, the AAP petitioned manufacturers to put a warning label on their popcorn. As if there wasn’t enough to provide warning when reviewing certain labels, particularly with microwave popcorn. For instance, microwaving produces molecular structures known as “radiolytic compounds” which diminish the healing capacity of white blood cells as well as the oxygen-carrying ability of molecules in red blood cells. Microwave popcorn is also laden with artery-clogging transfats and can be packaged in bags which contain perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) which has been linked to cancer and infertility. When heated, PFOA can reportedly be released as a gas and absorbed into the popcorn. There’s also diacetyl, an ingredient use to impart butter flavoring which has been attributed as a cause of lung disease frequently affecting workers at popcorn factories. For those drawn to the aromatic aesthetic in a piping-hot bag of butter-flavored popcorn fresh from the microwave, beware the danger in inhaling diacetyl.
Such health issues don’t come into play with PopCorners. For examples, ingredients in PopCorners’ Kettle Corn variety is simply sugar, sea salt, sunflower oil and yellow corn enriched with B-family vitamins such as niacin, thiamine and riboflavin. A similar formulation is found in the butter, sea salt, caramel, white cheddar, and cheesy jalapeno flavors. “PopCorners are an all-natural, gluten-free and Kosher Certified snack” says Renow, who also indicates the company is moving to expand the line with Non-GMO profiles, specifically as it relates to whole grain offerings. Renow adds that “the consumer can also look forward to new flavors that include Sweet Cinnamon, Memphis Barbeque and Twisted Salt in a GMO-Free chip that will redefine the new shape of whole grain.” Although GMO-Free grains are more challenging to source, PopCorners are trending toward sourcing not only utilizing them for the grain offerings, but the corn-based flavors as well.
Renow resists references to the healthy aspect of PopCorners, indicating that studies suggest consumers too often associate “healthy” with certain blandness of taste. “We prefer ‘Better for You,’ because we want consumers to know they don’t have to give-up on experiencing something that tastes savory… is just as tangy, salty or sweetly flavored just as one wants when having a snack. Our thought process was to evolve popcorn and not lose its flavor, but still produce something that is better to eat,” he says. Renow adds that the variety of flavor profiles allow PopCorners to be perfectly adapted for other epicurean indulgences. For instance, Renow enjoys noshing caramel PopCorners with his morning coffee. He says other flavors go well with sandwiches, or soup, as they are “perfect for dipping.”
PopCorners have been proven to be particularly pleasing to passengers of JetBlue Airlines. In early product trials, PopCorners were distributed during JetBlue flights and has since become the most requested product on the airline. PopCorners also captured acclaim during a recent food tradeshow in California. With bringing some 24,000 bags of PopCorners to that event, Renow notes that within 2 ½ days the product was completely consumed.
Since its first commercial launch less than two year ago, PopCorners has emerged as a product carried by major retailers, such as HEB, Wegmans, Market Basket, Ralph’, Shoprite, Costco’s, BJ’s Wholesale Club and Sam’s Club. This penetration has not been limited to the U.S. market as PopCorners is now exported to 42 countries, including Canada, Mexico, Australia, Brazil, Japan and South Africa. Over the last year, revenues have grown by more than 300 percent with surprisingly little reliance on the typical national advertising strategies companies deploy. PopCorners have enjoyed particular popularity on social media platforms where product reviews and YouTube Videos by consumers can be readily found.
PopCorners has additionally generated widespread appeal from guerilla marketing donations to numerous charities, including hospitals treating children with Celiac Disease, an autoimmune disorder that affects functioning of the small intestine. As PopCorners are gluten-free, they can be safely consumed (and digested) by anyone afflicted with Celiac. Renow says the company will typically receive hundreds of emails every month with more than 70 percent coming from consumers who rave about how much they enjoy PopCorners, but he especially appreciates the letters from parents and children expressing gratitude for creating a product that adheres to their dietary requirements.
The lion-share of the other email is coming from consumers demanding more product placement in their local stores, and rest assured, Renow says PopCorners is working to expand its presence. Renow added that this growth has led to the ever growing challenge of keeping up with demand, which he notes is being addressed daily with considerations for increased production.
Given the current sales trends, Renow projects annual sales within the next few years to exceed $100 million, and given PopCorner’s popularity, his enthusiasm is unlikely to be burst-away as easily as a corn kernel.
By developing new flavor profiles and new structural styles, while maintaining the taste and ingredients that make consumers smile, look to PopCorners to increasingly pop-up throughout the corners of the snack-loving world.
For more information, please visit their website at: PopCorners
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