Market analysts Technavio have predicted global sales of popcorn will increase more than 40% to $12.4bn between this year and 2020.
Growth will be fueled by rising demand for ready-to-eat convenience foods, according to analysts, while new flavors such as caramel, cheese and even beer will maintain interest in the category. Among recent launches has been a Hot Cross Bun flavored popcorn rolled out by UK manufacturer Tangerine Confectionery under its Butterkist brand.
The extension of popcorn into new formats – such as the Nature Valley popcorn bars launched by General Mills – will help to mitigate the effect of market saturation in developed markets such as the US and Europe, said Technavio.
Although the US will remain the largest global market for the snack, the country’s share of the category is set to fall from 61.3% to 59.0% as Europe, APAC and Latin America grow at a faster rate (see graph), according to Technavio report Global Popcorn Market 2016-2020.
Analysts are predicting 6.2% compound annual growth in the US market between now and 2020, versus 7.2% in EMEA, 7.9% in Latin America and 11.3% in APAC.
Popcorn is a popular salty snack in Latin America, followed by crisp breads and crackers.
The Latin American market has been tipped to grow from $1.1bn in 2015 to $1.6bn in 2020, driven by factors including rising disposable income and a growing middle class.
Although microwave popcorn is expected to lose share to ready-to-eat in the global market (see box-out below), Technavio food and beverage research analyst Vijay Sarathi said there was “considerable room for growth” for microwave popcorn in Brazil. This is highlighted by the strategic partnership between ConAgra Foods and Cargill that has seen Cargill become marketing and distribution partner for ConAgra’s Act II microwave popcorn, which will be produced locally in Sao Paulo for the first time.
As with Latin America, increasing disposable income is driving popcorn market growth in APAC, with disposable income up 19.3% between 2007 and 2012, and tipped to grow 35.2% between 2012 and 2019.
A growing trend in APAC is gourmet popcorn, highlighted by the rise of the Cornery chain of gourmet popcorn retail outlets, said Technavio.
“Cornery aims to take the first mover advantage and offer a high quality of popcorn rather than conventional popcorn,” said Sarathi. "Aramidth International, which is the owner of Cornery, aims to open an additional 12 stores over the next three years.”
Product and packaging innovation – including healthier variations of existing products – are driving value growth in APAC, according to Technavio, with brands offering popcorn in formats such as plastic bottles and cans.
Microwave popcorn: cooling down
Currently accounting for more than half the global market, microwave popcorn is set to lose share to ready-to-eat over the next five years, according to Technavio.
“Though many people prefer to cook popcorn traditionally in the microwave, the convenience factor is changing the buying behavior of customers and leading to greater demand for RTE popcorn,” said Technavio food and beverage research analyst Vijay Sarathi.
Technavio said sales of ConAgra’ microwave popcorn brands - including Act II, Jiffy Pop and Orville Redenbacher’s – fell by 4% a year between 2010 and 2013, for example.
“Consumers are favoring the RTE category, which calls for a strategic change in the vendors' offerings,” said Sarathi. “The promotion spent on new types of flavors and varieties under the ready-to-eat segment is also overtaking the microwave popcorn market.”
However, ready-to-eat does face at least one challenge, according to Technavio, as it is not popular with consumers who prefer fresh foods.
“Considering that fresh ingredients are gaining attention, this could be a challenge for the RTE popcorn market during the forecast period,” added Sarathi.