The move comes as other US businesses – including snacks giant Snyder’s-Lance – get set to increase their activities in the UK.
PepsiCo, which also sells popcorn under the Walkers snack brand in the UK, said it hopes the new premium brand will tap the changing position of popcorn in the snacks market.
“We see an opportunity to take popcorn beyond the traditional movie night with an indulgent proposition that appeals to the sharing occasion,” a spokesman told BakeryandSnacks.
Four flavors launched in UK
The UK line-up for the Pop Works & Company brand – which is also available in the other markets – comprises four flavors: Sticky Toffee Pudding, Peanut Butter & Caramel, Apple Pie, and Sweet & Salty. They are sold in 90 g bags with a recommended retail price of £1.50 ($2).
The popcorn is produced using a ‘wet popping’ method, with the corn kernels popped in a kettle rather than a hot air popper.
This ensures the corn is light and crunchy, said PepsiCo, which is supporting Pop Works with shopper marketing activity and a digital campaign including partnerships with social influencers and vloggers.
Pop Works & Company is being launched following 170% retail value sales growth in the UK popcorn category over the five years to the end of 2015 [Nielsen].
“Popcorn already presents a tremendous opportunity for retailers and we anticipate the segment will maintain its rate of growth in the next five years, so we are keen to support retailers and help them to take advantage of the growth in demand,” said PepsiCo UK marketing director Thomas Barkholt.
And the launch comes as competition in the UK’s premium popcorn category is set to intensify as US businesses ramp up their presence in the market.
Snyder's-Lance last month acquired the remaining shares in UK popcorn business Metcalfe's Skinny Limited – after its subsidiary Kettle Foods bought a 26% stake in January.
Snyder’s-Lance president and chief executive officer Carl E Lee Jr said he saw “tremendous growth” in the UK and opportunities for further international expansion for Snyder’s-Lance snacking brands.
“This addition to our branded portfolio provides us with another better-for-you option in a growth snacking category in the European markets,” he stated at the time of acquiring the remaining shares.
SkinnyPop heading across Pond?
SkinnyPop – the second largest US popcorn brand after PepsiCo’s Smartfood – may also be heading to the UK owner Amplify Snack Brands announced it is to acquire UK potato chips business Tyrrells.
Amplify has said the acquisition will give opportunities to take SkinnyPop into markets where Tyrrells operates, including Europe and Australia.