UK popcorn sales booming, Key Note snack report finds

By Hal Conick contact

- Last updated on GMT

Popcorn perceived as healthier than bagged snacks among UK consumers: Key Note
Popcorn perceived as healthier than bagged snacks among UK consumers: Key Note

Related tags: Snack food, Snack foods

UK consumers are increasingly choosing popcorn over potato chips for the improved nutritional value, according to a report from Key Note.

The Key Note Snack Foods Market Update 2015 found that the market for bagged snacks grew 29.7% from 2010 to 2014, with 5.7% growth in 2014 alone.

Recent popcorn sales have been a big part of this increase, with the average UK citizen consuming 5 kg (11 lb) of popcorn per year.

One major example of popcorn’s rise has been Butterkist, which saw its sales volume rise by 23.9% and it's value rise 20.1% over the past year, according to the Key Note report.

Unique flavors

Leah Parsons-Tutt, analyst at Key Note, told BakeryandSnacks.com that popcorn now has a “firm position” within ​the snack market. One of the big reasons has been innovative flavors, as well as the fact that popcorn has an association with movie nights and is well known as being healthier than most other bagged snacks.

“Popcorn has also shown its versatility, and as such I’d argue there isn’t really a snack that can compete with popcorn,”​ Parsons-Tutt said. “Popcorn can be served sweet or savory and, as recent launches have shown, as a basic or premium product. As such, I really can’t see an equivalent product on the market, just several other successful snacks.”

Brands such as Portlebay Popcorn, Propercorn and Joe & Seph’s have been experimenting with flavor in the UK. Parsons-Tutt said this is an ideal vehicle for exploring with new flavors, as is inexpensive to produce and can win customer interest due to variety.

Some interesting popcorn flavors that have come out recently include:

  • Cheddar and smoked paprika
  • Onion seed and lime
  • Thai-style peanut satay
  • Honey and hazelnut
  • Orange marmalade

Variety, health the keys to snacking success

In the next four years, Key Note is forecasting the snack food market will grow by 18.4%. Parsons-Tutt said this is because of the willingness of consumers to try new snacks, especially those with new bases, flavors and health bragging rights. She specifically noted lentil-based snacks as another proven success on the market, due to both variety and health.  

Some snack foods have come to be associated with rising obesity levels, but she said consumers are still willing to consider them as part of a diet.

“So far, snack food manufacturers have responded to the demand for healthier goods by changing up recipes and offering alternatives to traditional potato crisps,”​ Parsons-Tutt said. “In the future, crunchy nut snacks and ‘super food’-based snacks (such as quinoa, lentils, kale), could quite possibly define the future of the market.”

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