Demand for microwavable popcorn took off in Europe last year as the population struggled with lockdowns, according to Natais, the continent’s biggest producer of the popular snack.
As cinemas shut down in line with coronavirus restrictions, people went for make-at-home microwavable popcorn instead, propelling the sales to new heights, Natais’ chief executive Michael Ehmann told AFP.
In 2020, the company sold more than 200 million bags of popcorn in Europe and in 2021 the figure stood at 207 million, according to sales director Helene Ricau, who added that “with the health crisis, microwavable popcorn has exploded.”
“During the lockdowns, people discovered popcorn as a sort of comfort food in these gloomy times,” she explained.
Natais says it is targeting annual growth rates of between 4% and 5% in the coming years. The French company – a small family-run business which only employs 130 people – produces nearly 40% of Europe’s popcorn. It supplies more than 80% of France’s cinemas, but overseas sales make up more than 90% of the company’s annual turnover of $75 million.
The picture is similar in the US, where the at-home popcorn craze picked up even earlier. Some producers were reporting microwave popcorn sales growing by between 40% and 80% in 2020 when lockdowns were first introduced.
“People are staying home. They’re binge-watching Netflix and instead of going to a movie theater, they’re popping popcorn at home. A rising tide lifts all boats and that’s very much what happened to the popcorn industry”, Garry Smith, president of Jolly Time popcorn company, told Variety entertainment news website, describing the sales as “out of control crazy.”
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