I first spied BOOMCHICKAPOP’S bright, bold, party-ready package in the snack food aisle of my local Target. There they were- bright pink and aqua bags of deliciousness shouting in a sea of yawn-worthy chips, pretzels and popcorn. I loved that the calorie count was right there on the front of the bag; sugar content is always one of my top concerns when choosing snacks for my young family.
Our first taste experience was with BOOMCHICKAPOP Lightly Sweet Popcorn, ringing in at just 35 calories per swoon-worthy cup. It’s kettle corn-lite and satisfies a salty/sweet craving with less of a sugar rush than the original. The whole family was hooked from hello and we now crunch poolside, in the car and in the air (it makes the perfect airplane snack). BOOMCHICKAPOP’S limited edition flavors are pretty awesome as well- Strawberry Cupcake popcorn? Yes, please!
The Brandettes recently caught up with Joe Driscoll, Vice President of Marketing for Angie’s BOOMCHICKAPOP, at the Natural Products Expo West, for a peek behind today’s coolest popcorn brand.
Brandettes (B) – Was there a specific, defining moment in the brand’s history when you really saw your sales and distribution take off?
Joe Driscoll (JD)- Yes! You know, it’s been interesting because we built from the natural channel out. When we became this sort of “cross-over to mainstream” brand with natural credentials, that’s when it really tipped. Target was a big believer in us early on.
We love our relationship with Target and we have built a really good one. And we see it represent a more significant share, ongoing, so we continue to foster that connection. We also tipped when we got into Safeway, which was about one year ago. We recently got into Kroger. It just keeps steamrolling. I would say that as soon as we went from the natural channel core to mainstream, it just exploded from there.
B- Okay, so let’s talk about flavors because you guys have some amazing ones. Where do the ideas come from and how long does it take before you know they’re going to work?
JD- It’s so fun, because we actually do it as a team. We sit down with our M.D. group and we’re like, alright let’s come up with some new flavors, let’s try stuff, because not every flavor works with popcorn, right?
We want to see what fits, we will sit down with Angie and with our M.D. team and just taste a bunch of them, and it truly is “yep, this one, let’s go.” Maybe a few modifications but that’s how we do development. The process is pretty quick.
B- We just bought BOOMCHICKAPOP Strawberry Cupcake for Valentine’s Day.
JD- Oh, nice! That’s what I love about the holidays; we get to play even further. We figure, “this is just going to be limited edition, so let’s just try something.”
B- How did it do? Did you get a strong response? We think that’s a pretty out-of-the-box flavor.
JD- It is, and we did well! The Cupcake flavor was just at Target this week. Strawberry Cupcake is the number one searched flavor on our website. People got it and they wanted to know where to find more. Now they’re hooked.
B- We wanted to ask you a little bit about your packaging because you’ve got the bold colors, calorie count front and center and no pictures of popcorn. How did you guys come to those decisions?
JD- Well, when we launched our BOOMCHICKAPOP Sea Salt in 2012, it was our first just salted product. Prior to that, our main product was kettle corn. Everything had sugar in it, so we wanted to launch just a sea salt. It launched on the market in the yellow bag, and in four months it became our number one seller. Boom! So, the next year we spent time migrating all of our flavors under the BOOMCHICKAPOP brand.
It’s been a hugely successful strategy. When I came to the brand, I talked to the team about how, at most food companies, you have to have that perfect picture of the food. But we didn’t have it with BOOMCHICKAPOP so we just kept it that way. The number one request every buyer has is “would you put a picture of the popcorn on the bag?”
B- Good for you for staying committed. It’s such a bold move for your category and it really worked to your advantage!
JD- You know, it’s popcorn. People know what popcorn is. Right now, this is working.
B- Let’s circle back to the brand’s origin. The way your brand got started in the founder’s garage is such a great story. What words of advice would you have for people wanting to start a brand of their own?
JD- Don’t do it in popcorn! Haha! We’ve got that covered. But seriously, I would say, first, you have to believe in your success. Right? You have to truly own it and assume you’re gonna win. If you do that, you’ll take the risks you need to take, you’ll lean in, you’ll move forward and you’ll eventually be successful.
BOOMCHICKAPOP’S founders, Dan and Angie, work so hard. I know you asked, “When did you come onto the scene?” They started in 2001, so it’s been around a long time but it didn’t really hit. The brand got into their first grocery store in 2007. The whole idea, initially, was simply to sell kettle corn at events and farmer’s market stands. When the brand got into its first grocery store, it just took off. It took a few years to get it right, for the packaging and everything else. We continue to innovate and evolve. So I guess that’s part of the advice too, you have to believe in your own system. You’ll get there, and you’ll work harder, but you also have to evolve. You can’t be too precious about where you start, because where you start is probably wrong.
B- That’s strong advice. So was it always BOOMCHICKAPOP? Or did the company have a different name?
JD- It was Angie’s Popcorn and our company was called Angie’s Artisan Treats. So we had a very artisanal looking bag, a very crafty looking product. At the time, it was great. If you walked in the natural channel, that’s what you saw, and you still do a little bit. Burlap and Birkenstocks is how I describe it to the team.
B- It’s hard to believe that now, because it’s so edgy and modern.
JD- That’s where we went; we can still be bold and bring color. Consumers want that. They want it to be natural food, obviously we bring that, but we can still have fun with the brand.
It’s the moment of truth, when people get to the shelf. It’s the packaging that makes them pick up the product for the first time. It’s fun to say, branding is great. We always repeat to ourselves, “never go beige.” Our marketing team uses that as a mantra. If we’re going to go do something, we’re going to bring color.
B- That’s a great mantra. Our children know the product by package and name- they ask specifically for BOOMCHICKAPOP.
JD- That’s great. It’s very cool. It’s a wonderful thing to say!
B- Joe, have you always been in the food industry?
JD- I have, I was at General Mills for 12 years before I joined Angie’s. It’s been a blast. I love the natural foods space. You meet entrepreneurs here willing to share and give advice and talk about their ideas. It’s very much an open community.
B- Can you tell us how the BOOMCHICKAPOP name was created?
JD- So many different names came up when the new packaging was being designed. Everyone was just really keen on wanting to do it differently. And they came up with BOOMCHICKAPOP having looked at many other creative choices. The team thought it was awesome because it relates to popcorn. Today, we always talk about it as being about taste, total transparency, and being bold. And we love that.
For more brand flavor AND a list of their flavors, check out BOOMCHICKAPOP right here