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A hot snack with lots of pop!

Popcorn is catching on with shoppers but bulky bags test shelf space limits

popcorn closeup-0513

Move over potato chips… 2013 is the year of popcorn. Time magazine recently declared gourmet popcorn the hottest snack food of the year.

And, according to Euromonitor, popcorn was on track to be the best performer in the snack category in Canada in 2012, with 14 per cent growth.

Popcorn sales have increased thanks to the introduction of new flavours such as tomato and paprika, the research firm says.

A growing number of smaller companies now sell premium popcorn. Boston-based Quinn Popcorn, which began selling its microwave popcorn at Longo’s in November, carries such flavours as Vermont maple and sea salt, and lemon and sea salt.

From Farm to Table pre-popped popcorn, which uses Ontario corn, is now sold at Sobeys in four flavours: ancient grain, dill pickle, white cheddar and kettle corn.

But the burgeoning popcorn market can present a problem for grocers. Bags of pre-popped popcorn “are big and bulky, so [the challenge] is finding room,” says Neil Kudrinko, owner of Kudrinko’s, an independent grocer in Westport, Ont. “If you’re getting into a whole new line of popcorn, you’re looking at several feet of shelf space.”

On the chips front, barbecue, salt and vinegar, and plain lead the traditional chip category, which was expected to grow five per cent in 2012, according to Euromonitor.

But consumers are looking to expand their flavour palate. Kudrinko’s has started carrying gourmet kettle chips from a Waterville, N.B.-based company called Covered Bridge. “And we’ve been doing very well with it,” says Kudrinko.

Covered Bridge’s line includes Smokin’ Sweet Barbecue, Cinnamon & Brown Sugar Sweet and the just-launched Homestyle Ketchup.

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