Is microwave popcorn just a fad? {Flashback to 1987}

Haha! What a farce when “they” talk about things like microwave popcorn.

Three plus decades later – people still don’t realize that carbs are addictive? WTF?

By the way – even if microwave popcorn is shunned eventually – all popcorn – even “air-popped” is just bad for everyone.

microwave popcorn is bad for you - Is microwave popcorn just a fad? {Flashback to 1987}

Is microwave popcorn just a fad?

Via NY Times 1987
Poor Orville Redenbacher. The executives of General Mills, Pillsbury and Nabisco Brands are out to get the king of popcorn.

Their passion for popcorn – or to be more precise, microwave popcorn – is easy to understand. In the last four years, the nation has developed a seemingly insatiable appetite for microwave popcorn, making it the fastest-growing segment of the popcorn business.

Five years ago, microwave popcorn did not exist. In 1983, the first full year that microwave popcorn was available nationally, it generated retail sales of $53 million, according to Packaged Facts, a New York-based consumer research concern. Last year, consumers popped an estimated $250 million worth of the stuff, according to the Popcorn Institute, a Chicago-based trade group. Five Major Brands

One pattern in the highly competitive packaged-snack-food industry is that, where there is demand, an abundance of supply will surely follow. Indeed, there are now five major brands slugging it out: Pillsbury’s Microwave Popcorn, General Mills’ Pop Secret, American Pop Corn’s Jolly Time, Nabisco’s Planters Premium Select and, of course, Beatrice’s Orville Redenbacher’s Microwave Popping Corn. Several smaller companies, including the food concern of the actor Paul Newman, have also jumped into the fray.

Calling the market ”keenly competitive,” Donald L. Knutzen, the general manager of the General Mills snack food division, said: ”This is easily the hottest microwave product General Mills has ever introduced.”

Continue reading the main story
Two consumer trends are responsible for microwave popcorn’s rise: the health craze and the growing popularity of microwave ovens.

Since popcorn (at least in its unadulterated form) is low in calories and sodium and high in fiber, Americans are now annually gobbling up 675 million pounds of all types, or an average of 46 quarts a person – twice the amount consumed in 1970. 65% of Homes Have Microwaves With microwave ovens now in about 65 percent of households in the United States, popcorn that can be prepared in those ovens is increasingly the kind of popcorn that Americans are eating. Total popcorn retail sales (popped and unpopped) are expected to double to $2 billion by 1990. And the microwave variety, which now account for 44 percent of unpopped popcorn sold, will probably become the dominant form in its category, with retail sales of $430 million by 1990, said Dennis P. Mitchell, managing editor of Snack Food Magazine.

Given these projections, it is easy to understand why some of the biggest guns of the packaged-foods industry have entered the business.

Consumers are willing to pay an average of $2 for a package of microwave popcorn – or substantially more than the 89 cents that a much larger generic bag of regular popcorn typically costs. Even with their high technology and marketing costs, microwave-popcorn manufacturers have margins of 10 to 20 percent or more, according to several makers.

Pillsbury introduced the first popcorn geared for microwaves in 1982, when it came out with a frozen microwave popcorn. But Orville Redenbacher, the dominant power in the traditional unpopped-popcorn market, burst onto the microwave scene in 1983. By 1985, Redenbacher, a Beatrice Companies unit, had taken the lead in the microwave segment with its butter and plain offerings. $15 Million Ad Budget Since then, General Mills’ Betty Crocker Pop Secret has caught up with Redenbacher. Each company now holds about 26 percent of the market, measured in retail dollars.

General Mills, the major player in the $5 billion cereal business, reportedly supported its attack on the market with a $15 million national advertising budget. It promoted Pop Secret as the first popcorn appropriate for all microwave ovens – no matter what the wattage. More of Pop Secret’s kernels will pop than the competition’s, General Mills says.

Some of General Mills’ competitors disagree – and for understandable reasons. Because packaging is pretty much the same – specially treated, cellophane-wrapped microwave pouches – ”popability” is a big deal.

Redenbacher asserts that virtually every single one of its kernels pops. Nabisco Brands U.S.A., which became the latest entrant last May, makes the same claim for its Planters Premium Select Popcorn. One With Butter

For its part, the American Pop Corn Company is trying to distinguish its fourth-ranked Jolly Time Microwave Popcorn from the pack by noting that Jolly Time is the only microwave popcorn to contain butter. Meanwhile, all the big contenders have introduced salt-free versions for health-conscious consumers.

Despite the growing popularity of microwave popcorn, many in the industry are already predicting a shakeout. ”Like wine coolers, two or three winners will entrench in the microwave market, which will become a big, mainstream staple,” said Faith B. Popcorn, chairman of Brainreserve, a marketing consulting firm in New York. ”All the others will fall into the ocean.”

Indeed, with the packaged-food giants pouring huge sums into promoting their brands, the cost of competing is already steep. Beatrice spent $8.8 million last year advertising its microwave offering, up 93.9 percent from 1985, according to Leading National Advertisers, a New-York based advertising-research concern. American Pop Corn’s ad expenditures have increased 51.7 percent, to $450,000. And Nabisco is about to begin a huge advertising blitz, which it hopes will reach 90 percent of American households with televisions. Nabisco will also entice buyers with trial packets and coupons.

Microwave popcorn sales may be booming, but not everyone is cheering. Makers of conventional oil and hot-air poppers saw sales fall 3.6 percent last year, according to Appliance magazine.

Hoping to tame the consumer appetite for microwave popcorn, some popper manufacturers are doing their best to point out that microwave popcorn is not so wonderful as munchers might think. While the microwave type may be easier to make, its old-fashioned cousin has no artificial flavorings or preservatives.

”Microwave popcorn is a fad,” said Debra A. Kumm, manager of West Bend Company, a maker of popcorn poppers. ”It will last until people read the labels and realize what chemicals microwave manufacturers put into their popcorn.”

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