Microwave Popcorn Increasingly Popular

The popularity of microwave popcorn just keeps growing.

By Diane Toops, News and Trends Editor

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Category report: popcorn (Orville Redenbacher organic)

The organic movement even has made inroads into the single-serve microwave popcorn category.

To achieve the utmost in popability, the moisture content of popcorn should be from 13 percent to 14.5 percent, with the ideal being 13.5. Processors consider the minimum expansion ratio for good popcorn to be 35-38 to one, however, some of today's improved hybrids will expand over 40 times. The average popping temperature is 347°F, and a good package of popcorn should provide at least 98 percent popped kernels with well under two percent "spinsters" or unpopped kernels.

Popcorn continued its popularity from the 1890s until the Great Depression, as street vendors pushed steam or gas-powered poppers through fairs, parks and expositions. The popcorn business thrived during the Depression because at 5 or 10 cents a bag, it was one of the few luxuries down-and-out families could afford.

The No. 1 snack selection made by the majority of adults (76 percent) may be fruit, according to Parade magazine's 2005 "What America Eats" survey. That choice barely surpasses the popularity of popcorn (74 percent). Teens and kids prefer cookies as their No. 1 snack (76 percent), but 74 percent enjoy popcorn.

On the wellness front, Omaha-based ConAgra Foods' Orville Redenbacher's and Act II microwave brands, which feature 120 products and 30 flavor varieties, are now made with 100 percent whole grains and contain zero grams of trans fats. Orville Redenbacher also has an Organic Butter flavor.

Jolly Time Healthy Pop is 94 percent fat free. Pop Secret recently debuted 100 Calorie Pop, a size that contains only 100 calories. Newman's Own contains zero trans fats, and Smart Balance popcorn has no hydrogenated fat, no trans fat, low sodium and a patented oil blend to help improve good to bad cholesterol ratios. All microwave popcorn manufacturers are rolling out mini-bags, or individual serving sizes for calorie watchers.

Snacking is a way of life for many Americans, and by making healthful choices one can provide the body with needed nutrients and fuel. Even better, microwave popcorn feels indulgent and comforting at the same time. It's also a wonder snack for families to share and enjoy.


Single-Serve Microwave Popcorn
Brand Name Dollar Sales (millions) Dollar Share
Orville Redenbacher $154 26
Pop Secret 104 17
Private Label 63 11
Act II 62 10
Orville Redenbacher Smart Pop 58 10
Pop Secret Homestyle 29 5
Jolly Time Healthy Pop 17 3
Jolly Time Blast O Butter 14 2
Pop Secret Jumbo Pop 11 2
Act II Butter Lovers 11 2
Smart Balance 10 2
Orville Redenbacher Pour Over 9 1.5
Newman's Own 8 1.4
Cousin Willie's 7 1.2
Orville Redenbacher Homestyle 6 1.1
TOTAL $599,968,900  
Source: Information Resources Inc.
(U.S. supermarket sales for 52 weeks ended Feb. 19)
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