CHICAGO -- Ready-to-eat (RTE) popcorn has become a budding category over the past year in terms of both sales and flavor innovation. The category grew 3.2% and surpassed $231 million in convenience-store sales from November 2017 to November 2018, according to Chicago-based research firm IRI.
“Consumers have been turning to RTE popcorn as a convenient snack that satisfies that craving for something crunchy and salty but that doesn’t weigh them down,” Heather Fitzpatrick, brand manager for Amplify Snack Brands, the maker of SkinnyPop, told CSP Daily News. “Consumers are also continuing to look for simpler ingredients in their eating habits, including their snacking options, and RTE popcorn is a great choice to meet that desire for better-for-you snacking.”
Here are five ways c-store retailers can sell more RTE popcorn, according to Fitzpatrick …
1. Merchandise at eye level
Visibility is key when it comes to merchandising RTE popcorn, Fitzpatrick said. She suggests convenience retailers place popcorn close to eye level or on endcaps to yield higher turn rates.
“The key is adding items that are accretive rather than cannibalizing,” she said.
2. Focus on taste
Retailers should ensure they deliver great-tasting RTE brands when considering new products, because taste is the top priority among c-store consumers, Fitzpatrick said. This means covering all the major flavor subsegments, such as salted, sweet and cheesy, to address various consumer preferences, she said.
3. Top brands are essential
Frito-Lay’s Smartfood remained the top-selling RTE popcorn brand in 2018, garnering nearly $121 million in total c-store sales—more than half the category’s revenue, according to IRI. As a result, Fitzpatrick recommends retailing top brands such as Smartfood and SkinnyPop to maximize the category’s sales.
“Convenience retailers can [also] maximize RTE sales by eliminating redundant brands that are less desired by consumers,” she said. “We suggest retailers lean into new innovation from the leading brands if there’s early proof of concept, rather than broadening assortment with less relevant brands.”
4. Use consumer data
Using point-of-sale (POS) data is essential for maximizing RTE popcorn sales, Fitzpatrick said. POS data will indicate the brands and items consumers prefer, which is advantageous for retailers when they’re organizing their plan-o-grams.
“The data doesn’t lie,” Fitzpatrick said. “Retailers should trust it and stick to the brands with the best performance in the market.”
5. Prep for the future
Preparing for the future includes monitoring new flavors consumers are increasingly trying. Although it's currently a small flavor segment within RTE popcorn, consumer trends in the category point to excitement related to butter, Fitzpatrick said.
“We’re continuing to see consumer interest in butter as a trend across the store, and RTE is no exception with butter being a long-beloved flavor to accompany popcorn,” Fitzpatrick said.
Fitzpatrick also suggests retailers anticipate continued momentum in the sweet and kettle corn RTE categories as well, which have outpaced other flavor segments with continued growth in the category.