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What's the Difference Between Gourmet Popcorn and Regular Popcorn?

There’s a common misconception that regular popcorn and gourmet popcorn are one and the same. The problem is exacerbated by some brands marketing regular popcorn as gourmet popcorn. The differences are set out below.

What is Regular Popcorn?

Regular popcorn is a variety of corn kernel, which expands and puffs up when heated.

Regular popcorn is normally popped using butterfly popcorn which is put into a kettle along with oil and often salt and/or sugar and heated up. Once the kernels have reached around 150 degrees celsius, they ‘pop’ because the water rapidly heats up and steam doesn't have much time to escape, instead of bursting open the kernel.

What is Gourmet Popcorn?

Flavour innovation is central to gourmet popcorn companies’ strategies. Gourmet popcorn manufacturers are constantly pushing the limits of flavour innovation to find the next great flavour. Some of the newest popular gourmet popcorn flavours are spicy (jalapeno, siracha), sweet (caramel almond, salted milk chocolate) and savoury (goat’s cheese, black truffle). Part of what makes popcorn ‘gourmet’ is a willingness on the part of the manufacturer to push the envelope and expand their line of popcorn to include new and interesting entries.


Quality and Taste of a Finished Product


Manufacturers of ‘regular’ popcorn often use a high degree of automation in order to process the corn into the finished product. Manufacturers of gourmet popcorn take a higher degree of care over their manufacturing process which typically results in a higher quality product with a better taste and/or aesthetic. Parts of the process may require hand finishing to ensure the best quality of output.

Marketing Strategy

The global popcorn category is straddling health and indulgence, with many new popcorn companies opting for products that promote healthily, on-the-go snacking as opposed to an indulgent snack.

Gourmet popcorn is marketed in the ‘premium indulgence’ sub-category of the snacking category and sometimes crosses over to the confectionery category.