Pack a Snack, Part Two

Continuing on our discussion about Gourmet Snack Foods, we have an online exclusive interview with Angie Bastian, founder of Angie’s Artisan Popcorn of Mankato, MN. Angie's pops fresh popcorn batch by batch. The line includes Boom Chicka Pop Sea Salt and Boom Chicka Pop White Cheddar, as well as Sweet and Spicy, Salted Caramel, Kettle Corn and more.

WholeFoods: Your line includes some old favorites plus some unique flavors like Sweet and Spicy with cumin, garlic, paprika, cayenne pepper and other spices. Can you talk about what flavors gourmet shoppers are cravings?

  Angie Bastian, founder of Angie’s Artisan Popcorn

Bastian: We’re seeing that consumers are becoming more adventurous in their eating habits, and experimenting with more international flavors.  More specifically, in the past, snacks have leveraged the Latino perspective adding in lime and salsa flavors.  We’re now expanding the circle to include other ethnicities finding that layered flavors are gaining popularity in the snacks category, particularly eastern or international flavors including tzatziki, lemongrass and various Indian flavors. 

Our buyers are also looking for old-fashioned comfort flavors such as pumpkin.  Buyers want something interesting to put on the shelf, and we’re responding to the marketplace by continuously bringing them a wide variety of new snacking flavors. Ultimately, the buyers can choose to move these varieties to grocery store shelves.

WholeFoods: What are your thoughts about how and where "healthy" intersects with "gourmet snacks"?

Bastian: Consumers looking for healthy snacks tend to define gourmet a bit differently than the traditional marketing definition. For this segment of the purchasing public, instead of looking for complexity, they want to be sure that the quality of the food and ingredients is the highest level and that the product is good for their body. 

More specifically, when looking at popcorn, consumers want to be sure that the core of the product has great taste and is a clean, quality product. For our consumers, gourmet isn’t about adding butter, sauces or other fancy ingredients, it’s about clean, quality food that you can be comfortable snacking on several times a day. Consumers increasingly want to know where there food comes from; they want to touch it, feel it, grow it in their own backyards, or purchase it at their local farmer’s market. And when they do, they loosely categorize it as gourmet. 

WholeFoods:  How does the kernel selection process work at Angie's?

Bastian: At Angie’s we taste test several different of kernel varieties in our new product development process. In the end, we select a variety that offers the best taste and simplicity, two attributes we know are important to our customers.

WholeFoods:  How does has interest in non-GMO affected popcorn manufacturers?

Bastian: Consumers are increasingly aware about the topic of GMOs. Given that we’re in the organic and natural foods industry, we know that our consumers and retailers are looking for non-GMO products, and we’re going to meet those needs. In fact, Boomchickapop was the first non-GMO-verified, branded popcorn on the market.

One thing many consumers might not know is that popcorn comes from a different plant than the corn they eat as a vegetable on their dinner plate. Our popcorn, and many others on the market today, is dent-sterile that is protected as a seed and isn’t affected by GMOs in the environment.

WholeFoods:  How interesting! This is great news for popcorn lovers. Thank you for sharing your insight into the snack food market. WF

Readers can tune into Part One of our gourmet snack foods coverage here.


Published Feb. 26, 2014