Ready-to-Eat Popcorn Sales Popping Since Onset of Pandemic

The category reached $1.7 billion in sales attributable to at-home consumption, gifting and innovation.

CLEVELAND — The demand for ready-to-eat popcorn (RTE) has grown exponentially since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic as consumers took part in movie nights vs. going to the theater.

Over the latest 52 weeks, RTE popcorn generated $1.7 billion in sales, an increase of 9.1 percent over one year ago. In comparison to 2019, sales are up 18.7 percent, as Candy & Snack Today reported.

Other key reasons for the premium RTE popcorn category's growth include:

  • Gifting — Premium RTE popcorn is often included in gift-ready packaging as consumers look for ways to connect and share in the fun.
  • Innovation — Innovation surrounding a wide variety of on-trend flavors such as sea salt, caramel and dark chocolate are on the rise.

Pop-yourself popcorn has similarly benefitted from an increase at-home consumption occasions. Pop-yourself popcorn became a $1 billion category over the 52 weeks ending Oct. 31, 2021. Sales are down 3.6 percent year-on-year, but this is hardly surprising when compared to the enormous sales peaks of 2020 when more consumers were confined to the home, Candy & Snack Today reported.

When compared to the pre-pandemic levels, dollar sales are up 14.5 percent from 2019. Inflation also boosts dollar results: the average price per unit increased 7.1 percent to $3.40.

Within the pop-yourself popcorn category, microwave-ready popcorn is the largest category with $884 million in sales over the past year. While consumers pay a little more per package, the added convenience is driving above-average growth when compared to the 2019 levels (+14.6 percent).

In addition to pop-yourself and ready-to-eat popcorn, rice and popcorn cakes are a relatively small but fast-growing category. Sales over the latest 52 weeks totaled $366 million, which was an increase of 17.4 percent over year ago.

Candy & Snack Today is an official publication of Washington, D.C.-based National Confectioners Association, the trade organization that promotes the unique role of chocolate, candy, gum, and mints in a happy, balanced lifestyle and the companies that make these special treats through advocacy and regulatory guidance, communications, industry insights, and retail and supply chain engagement.

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