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FOOD AND BEVERAGES

Do UK Popcorn Brands Provide Good Value for Money with its Air to Popcorn Ratio?

Do UK Popcorn Brands Provide Good Value for Money with its Air to Popcorn Ratio?
The Siliconreview
23 October, 2020

Popcorn is considered to be one of the most popular snacks throughout the world. Available in multiple flavours, popcorns are best suited for a movie or game nights. Over the years, there has been a significant increase in the demand for popcorn, which has led to several brands introducing their product on the market shelves.

One of the most significant issues faced by consumers is the number of popcorns in the bag. Consumers have criticized the packaging style of these popcorn bags because the ratio of compressed air to popcorn does not serve the expectations of the customer. Compressed air is an essential constituent of the food packaging industry and hence, it is necessary to keep the crisp and freshness of popcorns intact. Through such packaging techniques, companies prevent popcorn from shredding into smaller pieces. Customers, on the other hand, complain that brands fill up extra air in their packaging which eats up the space of popcorns.

For the food industry, maintaining and ensuring the quality of compressed air systems is an integral part of the company’s policy. It falls under the category of hazard analysis and critical control point (HACCP) activity. ISO air quality measures are meant to ensure premium quality and purity levels inside the containers.

ISO 8573 testing is an internationally acclaimed method which assists in defining the ratio of different contaminants in the container and supports accurate testing of the air, and organisations such as Direct Air can provide services for validating and critically analyzing air quality.

With that in mind, just how much compressed air is in popcorn bags and have consumers been getting good value for money with their popcorn brand purchasing decisions?

Research Methodology:

Direct Air conducted a popcorn research campaign to monitor and compare the ratio of 'air to popcorn' in a variety of popcorn brands to determine which brand provided the best value for money of actually having popcorn in its bag.

A total of sixteen brands from the UK were tested in this comparative study. The research process was thorough and well defined to derive accurate results.

How was the Air calculated in the Popcorn bag?

Water displacement method was used to test the percentage of air, and the samples were collected in a 25L measuring bucket. The packaged popcorn was inserted in water and the rise in its level was recorded. Consequently, the popcorn was then sealed in a vacuum plastic bag. Later, the vacuum bag was also submerged in water, and the rise in its level was recorded, and the difference was then calculated. By eliminating the errors, a percentage was worked to calculate the ratio of air to popcorn in the bag. The process was repeated for every brand and product to maintain accuracy. The process had a very limited margin of error as there were no such limitations in the whole procedure.

Results of the Study:

The results of this research showed that on average a bag of popcorn was 54% of air, thus meaning that for every £1.58 that is spent on a bag of popcorn, 86p's worth is being spent on the air in the packaging.

This meant that more than half of the amount customers paid was for air in the bag. Comparatively, brands had a range of air percentage. Proper Corn Peanut Butter & Almond was found to have 71% of the air in its packaging, which was the highest ration among the sixteen products. On the other hand, M&S only had 31% of air. Other products usually fell in between 50-60%. Two different flavours of each brand were tested, and the results were calculated for a hundred grams of each product to generalize the ratio obtained.

Brand & Flavour

Price Per 100g (£)

% of Air in Bag

Proper Corn: Peanut Butter & Almond

1.60

71

Nude: Sweet & Salty

1.56

62

Nude: Simply Salted

1.92

62

Tyrrell’s: Sweet

1.94

57

Metcalfe’s: Toffee Apple

2.25

55

Tyrrell’s: Sea Salted

2.50

55

Tesco: Salted

1.24

55

Marks & Spencer: Salted

1.54

55

Metcalfe’s: Sweet ‘n’ Salt

1.25

54

Proper Corn: Perfectly Sweet

1.78

54

Waitrose: Sea Salty

1.43

53

Waitrose: Sweet & Salty

1.11

53

Tesco: Sweet & Salty

0.96

52

Butterkist: Cinema Sweet

1.70

48

Butterkist: Toffee

1.00

44

Marks & Spencer: Salted Caramel

0.57

31

Conclusion and Recommendations:

Based on this research, customers would understandably feel as if they are not getting value for money when purchasing popcorn because at least about 50-60% is likely to just be compressed air. However, manufacturers argue that they maintain such air levels to improve product quality to help retain freshness and provide cushioning in transit to help the popcorn remain intact.  Nevertheless, the research concluded that if a brand can maintain the same quality of product with 31% air in the bags, why do other brands need to double the ratio? The answer to that remains to be seen.