Popcorn has existed for thousands of years and was likely enjoyed long before recorded history. It’s the simple idea of heating kernels until they pop, using the moisture in each kernel combined with heat to achieve a delightful texture, taste, and snacking experience.
There’s no doubt that people love popcorn, but when it comes to the business side of things, the industry is as competitive as any other.
Quality ingredients and inventive flavors will get your brand far, but your company needs packaging solutions that outpace the competition to earn a spot among the popcorn elite.
Let’s explore the core elements of popcorn packaging, which packaging solutions work best for this product type, and how the right packaging partnership can elevate your brand in ways you never thought possible.
What Are the Keys to Popcorn Packaging?
With thousands of popcorn products on the market, finding a common thread that connects them all is hard. However, these three keys to packaging are essential for any popcorn type, from unpopped kernels to microwavable bags and pre-popped classics.
1. Protect the Product (Shipping and Storage)
Function comes before form when packaging popcorn, which tends to be a fragile product type in any form. Air-popped kernels are especially prone to damage, and customers don’t want to find a third of their popcorn disintegrated at the bottom of the package.
To avoid this fate for your products, make sure popcorn is protected with a solid outer protective layer and strategically filled so that pieces don’t move around too much within the interior.
With more room to roam in a bag or box, popcorn is more likely to end up damaged, regardless of the packaging format.
2. Preserve and Extend Shelf Life
Stale popcorn disappoints everyone, so don’t subject your customers to this experience. While kernels can be stored for up to a year, freshly popped popcorn has a shorter shelf life, ranging from a few weeks to a month.
This puts the spotlight on popcorn companies to introduce better preservation methods through packaging and give customers more control over how and when they enjoy these snacks.
Popcorn must be particularly protected from moisture, although oxygen, heat, and light can also accelerate the degradation process.
It’s no wonder why more resealable popcorn bags are making waves in the industry, especially with gourmet popcorn products meant to be savored more slowly.
Depending on the type of popcorn in question, brands need packaging that will combat that product’s worst forms of atmospheric and environmental hazards.
Thankfully, materials like Mylar and coated polyethylene are great for protecting against all kinds of elements that shorten shelf life, allowing for comprehensive preservation no matter what popcorn product you have in store.
3. Offer a Great User Experience
With the basics out of the way, it’s essential not to forget one thing: eating popcorn is meant to be fun.
The pieces are not only perfectly bite-sized but also highly scoopable, shareable, and overall snackable. Plus, with flavors ranging from sweet to savory, there’s something out there for all palates.
Customers now expect more from their products beyond the bare minimum of presentation and user experience. If popcorn brands can offer a fresh take on a classic format like the carnival-style popcorn bag or the movie theater tub, these have the potential to take off in consumer markets with the proper branding.
Of course, a reliable and straightforward user experience is always welcome if the product is strong, so companies shouldn’t always feel pressured to reinvent the wheel when it comes to packaging.
What Are the Best Popcorn Packaging Formats?
The foundations of popcorn packaging are well-known, but one walk through the popcorn section at your store reveals the vast array of formats used today.
Which popcorn packaging formats are best for each product type, and what approach should you take to maximize preservation, branding, and the fun factor? Let’s find out now.
Standard Plastic Bags and Sleeves
Most popcorn nowadays is found in lightweight plastic bags or cellophane-style sleeves, typically with a translucent appearance to showcase the product’s unique look.
This is the tried-and-true method of packaging popcorn in an eye-catching format, showing off distinctive kernels like butterflies, mushrooms, and various seasonings or sugary combinations.
It’s easy to find criticisms of this minimal format, from mediocre barrier properties to a lack of branding opportunities on the package apart from a simple sticker. On the other hand, there’s no denying that this format works and is one of the most popular packaging styles, from kernels to gourmet styles.
Don’t shy away from these formats on principle, but understand their limitations and consider more modernized methods first.
Resealable Pouches and Bags
With stand-up pouches and bags, customers get a genuinely resealable popcorn package that doesn’t rely on clips or twists to secure. This is refreshing for many customers who might want to take their popcorn on the go or simply like the look and feel of a stand-up solution.
Furthermore, pouches and bags like the Secure Sack from Dymapak offer a premium appearance and barrier properties that can’t be outdone by any standard plastic or cellophane.
Brands that specialize in gourmet popcorn or high-quality kernels will want to protect their products and offer a sleek presentation, which resealable bags provide more than any other formats.
Cylinders, Buckets, and Tubs
High-volume popcorn products are often shipped in bags, but cylindrical buckets and tubs offer a more authentic and user-friendly snacking experience in the home. When it’s time to catch up on TV series or gather around for the big game, you can bet that popcorn tubs are the way to go.
These formats are typically crafted with lightweight aluminum and feature snap-on lids, offering reasonable barrier protection for the home setting.
However, they don’t fare as well for transportation or travel, making them best for a specific market segment for stationary parties and home use.
Paper Boxes or Rectangular Containers
The old-school box of popcorn is a go-to anywhere in the world, from circus acts to movie theaters and sports games. Popcorn boxes are perfect for the ballpark or theater, but they are typically loaded with fresh popcorn that’s prepared on-site rather than pre-packaged goods.
The problem with shipping popcorn in boxes is the possibility of damage to the package structure and the lack of barrier properties from paperboard alone.
Therefore, brands should consider adding a thin plastic wrap layer around the box for extra protection, ensuring freshness is locked in for the supply chain journey.
Microwavable Popcorn Bags
Microwavable popcorn represents a vast market segment, delivering the fresh-popped snacking experience with a simple package and home appliance. These packages are specially designed with a combo of paper and metallic elements to transmit heat evenly throughout the package, using a mix of oils to create a coating of buttery flavor or other varieties.
Consumers are happy to pay for convenience and the home theater experience, so microwavable popcorn bags will always have a place. They are usually stacked in a paperboard box with a thin plastic wrap for extra preservation.
Stovetop Popcorn Pans
Stovetop popcorn was considered a massive innovation in the 1960s, but it’s not as popular as it once was. However, these aluminum pans with paperboard lids are still available from select brands and offer a dash of nostalgia for families who enjoy a hands-on popping experience.
What To Expect From Your Popcorn Packaging Partner
Popcorn packaging doesn’t have to be rocket science, but a packaging partner can make your mission much easier. Here are some keys to ensure your packaging partner is up to the task.
Precise Sizing and Structure
Functional packaging and protection depend on the exact package dimensions and volume for each unit you manufacture. Your packaging supplier should be willing and able to provide exact sizing for each package, ensuring you maximize every square inch of space.
Custom Printing and Branding
Branding goes a long way in the popcorn marketplace, so partner with a supplier that can translate your unique logos, colors, and labels to the package itself. From gourmet popcorn to party-sized tins, branding can make all the difference in recognition and customer retention.
Popular Packaging Formats
We’ve outlined the major packaging formats for popcorn brands, but which one is best for your product? Be willing to collaborate with your packaging supplier to find the optimal format and develop solutions that help make your product look and taste great.
Sustainable and Eco-Friendly Options
Popcorn lovers are more environmentally aware, especially when buying premium and artisanal goods. If you’re entering these markets, have an eco-friendly packaging format ready to implement and give customers a choice to recycle.
Put Your Popcorn Brand on the Map With Dymapak
Snack companies are under more pressure than popcorn kernels, but the proper packaging can help put your products in a position to succeed despite all these challenges.
Dymapak works with leaders across the food industry to create elegant and functional packaging solutions that retailers appreciate and customers love.
If you’re ready to take your popcorn concept off the ground into the marketplace, connect with our team today and let’s get it popping.
The Science of Microwave Popcorn: A Matter of Understanding Physical Changes | University of Akron
How to Make Your Popcorn Last for 2 Weeks | Spoon University
The History of Popcorn: How One Grain Became a Staple Snack | Serious Eats