Kettle Foods strengthens UK popcorn market share with Cornpoppers acquisition

By Gill Hyslop contact

- Last updated on GMT

Kettle Foods' MD Ashley Hicks with Cornpoppers' former owner, Balvinder Nijjar. Pic: Kettle Foods
Kettle Foods' MD Ashley Hicks with Cornpoppers' former owner, Balvinder Nijjar. Pic: Kettle Foods
Snyder’s-Lance-owned Kettle Foods has completed the acquisition of UK popcorn producer Cornpoppers for an undisclosed sum.

The move – just days after Conagra Brands made a similar move in the US for the producer of Boomchickapop – strengthens Kettle Foods’ strategy to evolve into a more widely-based premium snacking leader in Europe.

Ashley Hicks, MD of Kettle Foods, told BakeryandSnacks that, since it was bought by the US food producer Snyder’s-Lance in March, Kettle Chips has been “working on a journey of changing what has been a UK potato chip business into a European snack food business … and will add more brands to our portfolio.”

Moving outward

In 2016, Kettle Foods acquired Metcalfe’s Skinny popcorn in 2016, which it sought to roll out in the US despite a trademark dispute​from Skinnypop-owner Amplify Snack Brands. Kettle Brands told BakeryandSnacks the dispute was settled on mutually agreeable terms, the details of which are confidential.

Now joining the Norfolk-based snack company’s portfolio is Cornpoppers, a privately-owned family business established in 1979.

West Midlands-based Cornpoppers supplies branded and private label popcorn products to UK retailers and wholesalers, including cinema-style branded popcorns and speciality flavors such as Jalapeño, Chilli & Lemon and Maple Syrup.

"Cornpoppers became available at the right time and we were very interested in both the brand and the manufacturing facility," ​Hicks told us.

"The acquisition will play a key role in helping us drive further growth in the popcorn category and building a dynamic European snack foods business ... and we’re confident that it will create more opportunities with our trade partners in jointly evolving the full potential of the popcorn category.”

Hicks added there are currently no plans to roll the Cornpoppers brand out to the US, but "we’ll be looking into opportunities for future development and how the Cornpoppers’ brand  fits into our portfolio."

Popcorn explosion

The UK popcorn market has enjoyed steady growth over the past five years with a CAGR of 18% since 2012, according to Euromonitor,  driven by rising consumer interest in lighter snacks. 

“Health concerns are prompting users to cut back: 42% say they are limiting the amount of crisp/crisp-style snacks they are buying compared to a year prior. This suggests that while variants positioned actively as healthier have limited resonance in this market, NPD in better-for-you categories has gained traction among a sizeable minority of users,”​ said Amy Price, senior food and drink analyst, Mintel.

Kettle Foods has a factory in Bowthorpe near Norwich and is listed on the Eastern Daily Press’ Top 100 companies in Norfolk and Suffolk by revenue.

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