Milling & Baking News - June 5, 2018 - 30

Popcorn Update

Picking up the pace in popcorn
Acquisitions may bring more clout to burgeoning ready-to-eat category
Continued from Page 1

salty kettle corn and movie theater
butter varieties. In 2014, the company
introduced the Smartfood Delight
line of reduced-fat popcorn, featuring
35 calories per cup. That business has
doubled each year since it launched,
Ms. Haq said.
Smartfood Delight varieties include
sea salted caramel, white cheddar,
rosemary and olive oil, sea salt, and
chipotle aged cheddar. Recent additions to the Smartfood lineup include
Parmesan garlic and spicy jalapeƱo
ranch. Flavors are created through a
rigorous research and development
process, which gives Smartfood a
competitive edge in the marketplace,
Ms. Haq said.
"I think it's fantastic that there is
such a highly competitive market for
popcorn," she said. "It keeps all of
us on our toes and helps us deliver
a much better consumer proposition. For us, it really is about being
close to the consumer. We call it being consumer obsessed and really
understanding where the trends are
going both from a flavor perspective
as well as an experience or form perspective through our innovation and
insights team."
An insight that led to the development of single-serve packages is consumer demand for portion control
and portable snacking options, Ms.
Haq said.
"We have various multipacks and
single-serve items available across
our different channels," she said.
"We've done some work around insights to understand what is the right
combination of flavors and items to
put into those multi-packs to best
meet our consumer needs."
Another factor driving Smartfood's leading position is the company's direct-store delivery model,
Ms. Haq said.
"With the D.S.D. system we have,
that enables us to be within arm's
reach of our consumer when they're
looking for that product, which is a
huge advantage in the marketplace
for us across our entire portfolio," she
said. "We're also looking to develop
a magnetic brand around Smartfood
and beyond. You'll see a lot of communication and investment around
programing to really make sure that
30 / June 5, 2018

Milling & Baking News

we are engaging
our consumer
when they see us
in stores and online."
A recent addition to the
Smartfood portfolio serves as a
testament to how
the 33-year-old
brand evolves to
keep pace with
trends. The company introduced a caramel cheddar
mix, which is inspired by Chicagostyle popcorn found in specialty
stores, Ms. Haq said.
"Consumers are looking for that
type of mix-up, some excitement for
their palate with salty and sweet being a huge trend," she said. "That's
one of the ways we continue to innovate to meet consumer trends."
The R.-T.-E. popcorn category has
become an attractive segment for
some of the nation's largest companies. In December, Hershey Co.,
Hershey, Pa., bought Amplify Snack
Brands, the maker of SkinnyPop popcorn, for $1.6 billion.
At the time the acquisition was
announced, Patricia A. Little, senior
vice-president and chief financial officer of Hershey, said the deal reflected Hershey's belief that the R.-T.-E.
popcorn industry is positioned for
continued strong growth.
"Ready-to-eat popcorn's increasing
levels of household penetration, combined with on-trend better-for-you
attributes, lead us to believe the category will continue to be adopted by
an expanding breadth of consumers,"
Ms. Little said. "Amplify's status as


the premier better-for-you popcorn
brand, operating in an industry with
strong growth and margin characteristics, makes the company a perfect
complement to Hershey's existing
family of brands."
In the 52 weeks ended April 22,
dollar sales of SkinnyPop totaled
$235,120,800, up nearly 4% from the
same period a year earlier, according
to I.R.I.
Last month at the Sweets & Snacks
Expo, SkinnyPop unveiled protein
popcorn, with 5 grams per serving, in
ranch and cheddar and cracked pepper varieties.
The third major player in the R.T.-E. popcorn category is Conagra
Brands, Chicago, which last fall acquired Angie's Artisan Treats, L.L.C.
for $250 million. In the 52 weeks ended April 22, Angie's R.-T.-E. popcorn
sales totaled $110,369,496, up 43%
from the same period a year ago, according to I.R.I.
During a May 8 presentation at
the Goldman Sachs Global Staples
Forum in New York, Sean M. Connolly, president and chief executive
officer of Conagra, described Angie's
Boomchickapop as "clearly the strongest ready-to-eat popcorn business
in the U.S."
"The business is growing phenomenally, and we've got some test
markets going on right now of taking Angie's Boomchickapop into
some other sub-ZIP codes within
snacking that's outside of kind of
the D.S.D. realm where we think
we can play with a strong margin
and continue to add to the top line,"
Mr. Connolly said. MBN
- Monica Watrous
and Eric Schroeder /

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Milling & Baking News - June 5, 2018