How to Start a Gourmet Popcorn Business

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People of all ages and backgrounds enjoy popcorn at movie theaters, parties, amusement parks, sporting events, and shopping malls. Popcorn is a low cost and low calorie snack, and there's always a strong customer demand for it. Selling gourmet popcorn can be done at popular events, in stores, online, or at any fixed location. A gourmet popcorn business can be started for less than $10,000. Start small, create a great product, and then expand your business as demand increases.

Setup

Choose a recipe for your popcorn. This can come from a family recipe or can be bought wholesale. Understand the process and ingredients required to make your gourmet popcorn stand out from lower quality popcorn, including how the corn is raised, the oil used in popping, and the flavorings used. Create a budget that includes all business expenses: food and cooking supplies, rent for a commercial kitchen space, website development, transportation, insurance and licensing and permit fees. List all the distribution channels for your popcorn, including local events, gift baskets, retail outlets, and online.

Apply for all business operating permits, including a food handler’s license and resale permit. Determine requirements for forming a Limited Liability Company (LLC) or other corporate entity in your state. Purchase liability insurance that covers the specific needs of your business.

Get customer feedback at local outlets
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Call directors of local markets or organizers of upcoming events in your neighborhood, and try to arrange setting up a booth to showcase your product. Negotiate with a local packager on the cost of quality foil or other material to present your gourmet popcorn, and consider purchasing signage to make your booth look professional.To entice new customers and build up a loyal following, sell bags of popcorn at reduced costs. Hand out small sample cups and ask customers how they like the taste. Invite customers to sign up for email promotions and product information.

Join a professional trade association, like the Snack Food Association. Invest in business management training, such as the Food Safety and Security Short Course.

Marketing

Contact local niche food stores and inquire if a program exists to promote local vendors. Make an appointment with store managers and present samples of your popcorn. Request permission to display your product on days that have high customer traffic volume.

Design a website to attract online customers. Make sure your website includes enticing descriptions of your popcorn and shows pictures of your product. Consider including a brief video that highlights your gourmet popcorn-making process.

Join one or more local business organizations. Sponsor a breakfast or luncheon and hand out small sample bags of popcorn to attendees. Attach a business card with your website and contact information to each bag.

Speak to groups on food and health-related topics. Explain how popcorn is a healthy snack, with air-popped popcorn having only 31 calories per cup and oil-popped having only 55 per cup, according to the article “Corny Facts” on Popcorn.org. Present your product as a healthy alternative to other snack foods.

Tips

  • Set one-year goals and a three-year business plan and try to follow it.

Warnings

  • Be sure to obtain all necessary permits, licenses and insurance for your business.