5 Ready-to-Eat Popcorn Brands Soaring in C-Stores


Ready-to-eat popcorn is thriving in sales and driving flavor innovation in the snacking sector. Total U.S. retail sales of popcorn have increased 32% in the past six years—reaching an estimated $2.5 billion in 2017—with ready-to-eat (RTE) popcorn surging 118%, garnering $1.1 billion in revenue, according to new insights from research firm Mintel.

Consumers also crave a variety of RTE popcorn flavors. The research firm analyzed popcorn purchases of nearly 600 consumers from October to December 2017 and found that nearly half (49%) prefer cheese-flavored popcorn; 32% prefer chocolate/caramel covered popcorn; 39% want popcorn with multiple flavors; 20% crave mix-ins with popcorn, such as dried cranberries or candy; and 20% want seasonal flavored popcorn, such as pumpkin spice or gingerbread.

RTE popcorn brands are also tapping into consumer demands for better-for-you and portable options: Forty-five percent of patrons said they are interested in buying all-natural popcorn varieties, Mintel said.

Here are the five most profitable RTE popcorn brands that saw positive convenience-store growth over the past year as of August 2018, according to financial data from research firm IRI …

Photograph courtesy of Shutterstock 

1. Smartfood

smartfood popcorn jalapeno ranch

2017 total c-store sales: $119.6 million

Year-over-year increase: 4.9%

Smartfood is dominating the popcorn category, having outpaced competitors by more than $100 million in c-store sales in 2017, IRI said. The Frito-Lay-owned, flavored popcorn brand comes in seven flavors: Movie Theater Butter, Sweet & Salty Kettle Corn, Spicy Jalapeno Ranch, Parmesan Garlic, Sea Salt, Sea Salted Caramel and White Cheddar Cheese—the latter three of which also come in Smartfood Delight varieties and contain 30% less fat, are 100% whole grain and have 35 calories per cup.

Photograph courtesy of Smartfood

2. Lance Popcorn

lance movie theatre butter popcorn

2017 total c-store sales: $12.4 million

Year-over-year increase: 7.6%

Lance Snacks, a division of Snyder’s-Lance Snacking, offers popcorn in three varieties: Movie Theater Butter, White Cheddar and Hot Cheese, all of which are available in 3.5-ounce and/or 6-ounce bags and contain 120 to 160 calories per serving.

Photograph courtesy of Lance Snacks

3. SkinnyPop

skinnypop popcorn aged white cheddar

2017 total c-store sales: $9.8 million

Year-over-year increase: 24.3%

SkinnyPop delivers the movie theater favorite in six variations: Popped Popcorn, Popcorn Puffs, Microwave Popcorn, Popcorn Cakes, Popcorn Mini Cakes and Variety Packs, the latter of which features all of the flavors. The brand’s classic snack, Popped Popcorn, is available in six flavors: Original, Aged White Cheddar, Real Butter, Sea Salt & Pepper, Pepper Jack and Naturally Sweet.

Photograph courtesy of SkinnyPop

4. Popcorn, Indiana

popcorn indiana himalyan pink salt

2017 total c-store sales: $6.2 million

Year-over-year increase: 19.6%

Popcorn, Indiana offers the crunchy snack in two forms: Classic Popcorn and Drizzled Popcorn. The brand’s flavors include Kettlecorn, Sea Salt, Aged White Cheddar, Movie Theater, Himalayan Pink Salt, Caramel & Cheese Chicago Fair and Black & White. The latter is the only Drizzle Corn variation, which features the traditional snack topped with a sugary coating.

Photograph courtesy of Popcorn, Indiana

5. Wise Popcorn

wise popcorn white cheddar

2017 total c-store sales: $2.7 million

Year-over-year increase: 13.5%

Wise Popcorn, a subsidiary of Wise Snacks, offers popcorn in four flavors: White Cheddar (also available in a separate 40% reduced-fat option), Butter, Sea Salt and Hot Cheese. The brand also offers a 12-bag variety case, which features every flavor. Wise Popcorn is whole grain, gluten-free and free of artificial additives.

Photograph courtesy of Wise Popcorn