How To Market Your Homegrown Popcorn

Forget the boring yellow kernels—bring homegrown popcorn of a different color to the marketplace.

by Melissa Griffiths
PHOTO: Shihmei Barger/Flickr

Delicious homegrown food is in high demand, and gourmet popcorn is definitely on that list. According to the National Agricultural Library, the average American eats an estimated 68 quarts of popcorn in a year, and The Popcorn Board reports that more than a million pounds of unpopped popcorn were sold in the United States in 2013. Recent concerns around corn production, GMOs and other commercial-farming methods have put corn in the hot seat, which is why there’s no better time than now to start growing and marketing colorful, heritage, gourmet, organic, non-GMO and farm-fresh popcorn. Folks want popcorn to eat but not the plain-Jane yellow kernels from the store.

Where To Sell Popcorn

Once you have decided on the types of popcorn you’ll cultivate and sell—from the popular Cherokee Long Ear and Strawberry varieties to more obscure, such as Indiana Berry and Dakota Black—then it’s time to think of who you’ll be targeting with your sales. Farmers markets are excellent places to sell your popcorn, as well as great places to get your name and your farm’s name out into the public eye. After a successful farmers market season, it’s also a good idea to market your product to specialty stores, tourist stops and other local attractions in your area. Approaching local chefs who specialize in local food sources is another good idea. It’s more difficult to find an audience for online popcorn sales, but the internet can open your operation up to a much wider customer base.

Popcorn Packaging

WFIU Public Radio/Flickr

When selling locally, packaging is key: Food-grade, clear, resealable plastic bags make great choices. A sticker with your logo, popping instructions, tips and tricks, seasoning ideas, and details on how the popcorn was grown are nice selling points. Having labels designed professionally is often worth the cost; think about trading services if design work isn’t in your budget.

Mason jars with lids and bands also make unique popcorn packages for customers who are leery of plastics. Grouping popcorn with another item is great for a bundled sale: You could pair popcorn with specialty salts flavored from your homegrown herbs or attach a recipe for honey-caramel corn and sell your honey and popcorn together. You can also sell popcorn you pop onsite at the festival or farmers market—a nice way to have people try your specialty salts or caramel corn recipe!

Teach Your Customers To Stove Pop

The general public has also lost the art of popcorn popping with the advent of microwavable popcorn in a bag. Stove-top instructions will be necessary, and a live demonstration is even better. Don’t forget that air poppers and even popping popcorn in a brown paper bag in the microwave all work. Don’t forget the samples if you’re selling at the farmers market.

You’ll be wise to become a popcorn expert. Know the subtle differences between your varieties so that you can tell the consumer why they might prefer one over the other. Americans will be eating lots of popcorn this year. Will yours be their movie-night must-have?

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