Europe beckons for 'healthy, quick and tasty' popcorn

Tuesday, 26 August, 2014

Gourmet flavours, health-conscious consumers and the relatively untapped European market present the greatest opportunities for popcorn sales.

Global launches of popcorn rose over 8% in the 12 months to the end of June 2014. The large and mature US market was the leading individual country, accounting for over 20% of total introductions. But this was behind Europe, where the large number of countries involved took its share to 36%, according to data recorded by Innova Market Insights.

Meanwhile, gourmet lines, already established in the USA, are starting to make their way across the Atlantic, bringing a whole raft of more complex flavours and moving the sector away from its traditional ‘cinema’ image and a simple sweet or salty flavour choice.

“Ready-to-eat popcorn has been one of the fastest-growing sectors of the snacks market in many countries in recent years, having had something of a makeover to promote healthier, clean-label snacks in a wide range of increasingly sophisticated flavours,” says Lu Ann Williams, Director of Innovation at Innova Market Insights.

Over half of the popcorn launches recorded globally in the 12 months to the end of June 2014 were positioned on a health platform of some kind, rising to over 78% in the USA. ‘Naturalness’ was the key area of interest, with over 28% of global launches using either a natural or additive-/preservative-free positioning or both, rising to over 30% if organic claims were included.

In Europe, there has been considerable activity in the market over the past few years. The UK saw the relaunch of the market-leading Butterkist brand in 2012, now featuring savoury as well as sweet variants. A raft of new entrants has also appeared, including specialists, well-known brands from other sectors of the snacks market and retailer own labels.

German snacks market leader Intersnack entered the microwave popcorn market in 2012, and followed this with the 2014 introduction of its ready-to-eat Pop Corners products, shaped like tortilla chips and claimed to be the first popcorn product with corners. Meanwhile, in France, PepsiCo’s Benenuts snacks brand was used for the launch of three Popcorn Apero variants.

“While the USA popcorn market is very well developed,” Williams notes, “this is not the case in many other countries and regions, notably Europe, so there are considerable opportunities.”

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