Do you want to start a gourmet popcorn business? If YES, here is a complete guide to starting a gourmet popcorn business with NO money and no experience.

Okay, so we have provided you an in-depth sample gourmet popcorn business plan template. We also took it further by analyzing and drafting a sample gourmet popcorn marketing plan backed up by actionable guerrilla marketing ideas for gourmet popcorn businesses. In this article, we will be considering all the requirements for starting a gourmet popcorn business. So put on your entrepreneurial hat and let’s proceed.

Why Start a Gourmet Popcorn Business?

If you have passed where popcorn is being whipped up, then you just might agree that the aroma it sends in the air can be so tempting. No wonder children and some adults cannot see a movie at the cinemas without having a bag of popcorn at hand. You will agree that popcorn is one great snack to munch on anytime.

Gourmet popcorn business is one of the businesses that an entrepreneur can successfully start in the corner of a busy street or on a mobile shop without breaking the bank for cash. At the same time, big – time investors can also leverage on the high demand for gourmet popcorn around parks and schools to set up their own gourmet popcorn shops in strategic locations all around key cities in the United States of America.

Gourmet popcorn shops/kiosks can be located in any part of town as long as there are children and even adults who love gourmet popcorn plying and playing around the location. Generally, gourmet popcorn kiosks and shops are located in schools, parks, shopping malls, hotel lobbies, railway stations, bus stations, campuses, sport centers and in public facilities as long as you are given the permission to locate your kiosk or shop there. On the other hand, if you operate a mobile gourmet popcorn shop, then there won’t be any restriction to the places you can sell your popcorn just like the conventional food truck business.

If you are considering opening a gourmet popcorn business, all you would need are some capital to purchase or lease/rent a suitable facility (if you are not settling for mobile gourmet popcorn shop), the required equipment/utensils and furniture. You would also need some additional capital to purchase the initial supply of corn, pay your employees at least for the first 3 months, and also pay your utility bills.

Starting a Gourmet Popcorn Business – A Complete Guide

  • Industry Overview

The gourmet popcorn production industry is made up of businesses that basically produce popcorn, including microwaveable, ready-to-eat and other consumer packages of un – popped popcorn.

A recent report published by IBISWorld shows that over the five years to 2016, the uptick in discretionary spending has supported the snack and confectionary industry. The report also stated that a healthy eating trend sweeping the nation in recent years has made consumers wary of eating high-sodium popcorn products, but has also led other consumers to find healthier alternatives to chips and candy.

Moving forward, the industry is positioned for continued growth over the next five years. The report further stated that popcorn producers will continue to adapt their products to match changing consumer tastes, specifically the healthy eating trend, which will continue to drive demand for industry products.

The Gourmet Popcorn Production industry is a thriving sector of the economy of the United States which generates a whooping sum of $2 billion annually from more than 194 registered large – scale gourmet popcorn producing companies scattered all around the United States of America.

The industry is responsible for the employment of well over 3,341 people. Experts project the gourmet popcorn production industry to grow at a 1.8 percent annual rate. ConAgra and Snyder’s Lance are the leaders in the gourmet popcorn production industry, they have the lion market share in the industry.

As a matter of fact, a large percentage of the popcorn consumed all around the world is produced in the United States. A minimum of six US locations claim to be the ‘popcorn capital of the world’. The locations are Ridgway, IL; Valparaiso, IN; Van Buren, IN; Schaller, IA; Marion, OH; and North Loup, NE. So also, the traditional Corn Belt states grow most US corn. The 12 states in the Corn Belt are Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan, South Dakota, Kansas, Missouri, Kentucky and Ohio.

The gourmet popcorn line of business has minimal barriers to entry, with low start – up capital and no specific licensing requirements. The majority of gourmet popcorn shops operate as non – employers and the capital costs of establishing retail outlets are not substantial relative to many other retail industries, such as department stores.

On the other hand, the high level of competition and market saturation in a declining industry can prove challenging to aspiring entrepreneurs who want to start their own gourmet popcorn business. Most players in the gourmet popcorn line of business are small – to medium – size establishments that cater to the local community.

Despite the fact that the industry seems over – saturated, there is still room big enough to accommodate aspiring entrepreneurs who intend opening their own gourmet popcorn shops in the United States of America.

Over and above, the gourmet popcorn production industry is a profitable industry and it is open for any aspiring entrepreneur to come in and establish his or her business; you can choose to start on a small scale in a street corner like the average mom and pop business or you can choose to start on a large scale with several outlets in key cities or buy an existing and successful gourmet popcorn shop franchise.

Starting a Gourmet Popcorn Business – Market Research and Feasibility Studies

  • Demographics and Psychographics

The demographic and psychographic composition of those who buy gourmet popcorn and related snacks et al from gourmet popcorn shops cut across all genders and age groups, hence the demographic composition of the gourmet popcorn shop business is all encompassing.

The truth is that when it comes to selling gourmet popcorn and other snacks, there is indeed a wide range of available customers. In essence, your target market can’t be restricted to just a group of people, but all those that reside around the locations where you have your gourmet popcorn shop and who have purchasing power.

List of Niche ideas Within the Gourmet Popcorn Business That You Can Specialize in

It is important to state that there is no known niche area when it comes to the gourmet popcorn shop business. Every player in this line of business is basically involved in preparing and serving/selling different flavors of gourmet popcorns.

Naturally, it is common to find a standard gourmet popcorn shop engage in some of the under listed;

  • Producing consumer packages of un – popped popcorn
  • Producing microwaveable popcorn
  • Producing ready-to-eat popcorn
  • Selling Franchise

The Level of Competition in the Gourmet Popcorn Production industry

The competition that exists in the gourmet popcorn shop line of business goes beyond competition amongst gourmet popcorn shops in your location; you are expected to compete with supermarkets, mobile food trucks, and any other outlets that also sell gourmet popcorn.

Sincerely, no matter the level of competition in an industry, if you have done your due diligence and you brand and promote your products or business properly, you will always make headway in the industry. Just ensure you are good at preparing the different flavors of popcorn you have on your menu, you can deliver excellent customer care services and you know how to attract and reach out to your target market.

List of Well – Known Brands in the Gourmet Popcorn Business

In every industry, there are always brands that perform better or are better regarded by customers and the general public than others. Some of these brands are those that have been in the industry for a long time, while others are best known for how they conduct their businesses and the results they have achieved over the years.

These are some of the leading gourmet popcorn shops/production companies in the United States of America and in the globe;

  • ConAgra
  • Snyder’s Lance
  • Garrett Popcorn Shops®
  • Popcorn County USA
  • Benchmark USA
  • Great American Popcorn Company
  • Popcorn USA
  • Kernel Encore of Orlando
  • POP! Gourmet Foods
  • KuKuRuZa Gourmet Popcorn
  • Popz USA LLC
  • Doc popcorn
  • Popcorn Buddha
  • Popcornopolis
  • Popped! Republic – Gourmet Popcorn
  • Cravings Gourmet Popcorn
  • The Popcorn Store
  • Popcorn Opolis
  • The Popcorn Factory
  • Popcorn Bistro Mall of La

Economic Analysis

If you are looking towards successfully launching a business and maximizing profits, then you need to ensure that you get your economic analysis right and try as much as possible to adopt best practices in the industry you choose to build a business in.

Gourmet popcorn shop business is not a green business because you will come across several gourmet popcorn shops and supermarkets, mobile food trucks, and any other outlets that also sell gourmet popcorn when you drive through town.

So, if you are mapping out your economic analysis, you should carry out thorough market survey and costing of is required to rent a space where you are expected to open your gourmet popcorn shop business and the amount required to purchase gourmet popcorn making machines, refrigerators, kitchen utensils, assorted flavors and other supplies and also the running cost of the business.

Over and above, if you are considering starting a gourmet popcorn shop business, then your concern should not be limited to the cost of renting a shop facility and purchasing gourmet popcorn making equipment, but should also branding and how to build a robust clientele base. The truth is that if you are able to build a robust clientele base, you are sure going to maximize profits in the business.

Starting Your Gourmet Popcorn Shop Business from Scratch vs Buying a Franchise

When it comes to starting a business of this nature, it will pay you to buy the franchise of a successful and well – established gourmet popcorn brand as against starting from the scratch. Even though it is relatively expensive buying the franchise of an established gourmet popcorn shop brand, but it will definitely pay you in the long run.

But if you truly want to build your own brand after you must have proved your worth in the gourmet popcorn Production industry, then you might just want to start your own gourmet popcorn shop business from the scratch. The truth is that it will pay you in the long run to start your gourmet popcorn shop business from the scratch. Starting from the scratch will afford you the opportunity to conduct thorough market survey and feasibility studies before choosing a location to launch the business.

Please note that most of the big and successful gourmet popcorn shop around started from the scratch and they were able to build a solid business brand. It takes dedication, hard work and determination to achieve business success.

Possible Threats and Challenges You Will Face When Starting a Gourmet Popcorn Shop

If you decide to start your own gourmet popcorn shop business today, one of the major challenges you are likely going to face is the presence of well – established gourmet popcorn shops, supermarkets, mobile food trucks and other outlets that also sell gourmet popcorns. The only way to avoid this challenge is to create your own market.

Other challenges and threats that you are likely going to face are economic downturn and unfavorable government policies. There is nothing you can do as regards these threats and challenges other than to stay positive that things will work well for you.

Starting a Gourmet Popcorn Business – Legal Matters

  • Best legal entity to use for this type of business

You have the option of either choosing a general partnership, limited liability company, or even a sole proprietorship for a gourmet popcorn shop business. Ordinarily, sole proprietorship should have been the ideal business structure for a small – scale gourmet popcorn shop business especially if you are just starting out with a moderate start – up capital in a small neighborhood and with just one outlet.

But if your intention is to grow the business and have chains of gourmet popcorn shops across the United States of America and other countries of the world via franchising, then choosing sole proprietorship is not an option for you. Limited Liability Company, LLC or even general partnership will cut it for you.

Setting up an LLC protects you from personal liability. If anything goes wrong in the business, it is only the money that you invested into the limited liability company that will be at risk. It is not so for sole proprietorships and general partnerships. Limited liability companies are simpler and more flexible to operate and you don’t need a board of directors, shareholders meetings and other managerial formalities.

These are some of the factors you should consider before choosing a legal entity for your gourmet popcorn shop business; limitation of personal liability, ease of transferability, admission of new owners, investors’ expectation and of course taxes.

If you take your time to critically study the various legal entities to use for your gourmet popcorn shop business with the ability to sell franchise and open chains of gourmet popcorn shops all across the United States of America, you will agree that limited liability company; an LLC is most suitable. You can start this type of business as limited liability company (LLC) and in future convert it to a ‘C’ corporation or an ‘S’ corporation especially when you have the plans of going public. 

Catchy Business Name Ideas Suitable for a Gourmet Popcorn Shop

When it comes to choosing a name for your business, you should be creative because whatever name you choose for your business will go a long way to create a perception of what the business represents. Usually it is the norm for people to follow the trend in the industry they intend operating from when naming their business.

If you are considering starting your own gourmet popcorn shop business, here are some catchy names that you can choose from;

  • People’s Delight® Gourmet Popcorn Shop, LLC
  • Brownie D’ Bear®, Gourmet Popcorn Shop, LLC
  • Creamy Capac® Gourmet Popcorn Mobile Truck, Inc.
  • Dre’s Ventures® Gourmet Popcorn Shop, Inc.
  • Maria Morales® Gourmet Popcorn Shop, Inc.
  • Clara Flavors™ Gourmet Popcorn Shop, Inc.
  • Julia Grandson© Gourmet Popcorn Shop, Inc.
  • Magic Finger™ Gourmet Popcorn Shop LLC
  • Humpty Lane© Gourmet Popcorn Shop, Inc.
  • Cassandra Butler© Gourmet Popcorn Shop, Inc.

Insurance Policies

In the United States and in most countries of the world, you can’t operate a business without having some of the basic insurance policy covers that are required by the industry you want to operate from. So, it is important to create a budget for insurance and perhaps consult an insurance broker to guide you in choosing the best and most appropriate insurance policies for your gourmet popcorn shop business.

Here are some of the basic insurance covers that you should consider purchasing if you want to start your own gourmet popcorn shop business in the United States of America;

  • General insurance
  • Health/Medical insurance
  • Liability insurance
  • Workers compensation
  • Overhead expense disability insurance
  • Business owner’s policy group insurance
  • Payment protection insurance

Intellectual Property Protection/Trademark

If you are considering starting your own gourmet popcorn shop business, usually you may not have any need to file for intellectual property protection/trademark. This is so because the nature of the business makes it possible for you to successfully run the business without having any cause to challenge anybody in court for illegally making use of your company’s intellectual properties.

Is Professional Certification Needed to Run a Gourmet Popcorn Business?

When it comes to operating a gourmet popcorn shop business, you do not need to have any formal training or special certification before you can be allowed to open and operate a gourmet popcorn shop business in the United States of America and in all countries of the world. All you need is informal training that will expose you to the in and out of preparing varieties of flavors of gourmet popcorns and also effectively running the business.

List of Legal Documents You Need to Run a Gourmet Popcorn Shop

The essence of having the necessary documentation in place before launching a business in the United States of America cannot be overemphasized. It is a fact that you cannot successfully run any business in the United States without the proper documentations. If you do, it won’t be too long before the long hand of the law catches up with you.

These are some of the basic legal documents that you are expected to have in place if you want to legally run your own gourmet popcorn shop business in the United States of America;

  • Certificate of Incorporation
  • Business License
  • Tax Payer’s ID / Tax Identification Number
  • Food and drink handlers certificate
  • Health inspection Certificate
  • Proof of district-issued food and drinks manager identification card
  • Copy of license for the service support facility and/or a recent inspection report
  • Business Plan
  • Non – disclosure Agreement
  • Employee Handbook
  • Employment Agreement (offer letters)
  • Operating Agreement for LLCs
  • Insurance Policy
  • Online Terms of Use
  • Online Privacy Policy Document (basically for online payment portal)
  • Company Bylaws
  • Memorandum of Understanding (MoU)
  • Building License
  • Franchise or Trademark License (optional)

Financing Your Gourmet Popcorn Business

Starting a gourmet popcorn shop business can be cost effective especially if you choose to start on a small scale by running a small gourmet popcorn shop business in a street corner. Securing a standard and well – positioned store/kiosk facility and purchasing gourmet popcorn making machines, kitchen utensils, assorted gourmet popcorn flavors and other supplies et al are part of what will consume a large chunk of your start – up capital.

If you choose to start the business on a large scale, you would need to go source for fund to finance the business because it is expensive to start a standard large – scale gourmet popcorn shop business with the capacity to employ over a handful of employees.

When it comes to financing a business, one of the first things you should consider is to write a good business plan. If you have a good and workable business plan document in place, you may not have to labor yourself before convincing your bank, investors and your friends to invest in your business.

Here are some of the options you can explore when sourcing for start – up capital for your gourmet popcorn shop business;

  • Raising money from personal savings and sale of personal stocks and properties
  • Raising money from investors and business partners
  • Pitching your business idea and applying for business grants and seed funding from donor organizations and angel investors
  • Source for soft loans from your family members and your friends

Choosing a Suitable Location for a Gourmet Popcorn Business

When it comes to choosing a location for your gourmet popcorn shop business, the rule of thumb is that you should be guided by the demand for gourmet popcorn and easy access to wholesale purchasing of corn supplies, gourmet popcorn flavor directly from wholesale shops/distributors. Of course, if you are able to secure a central location for your gourmet popcorn shop business, it will give people easy access to locate your shop.

Before choosing a location for your gourmet popcorn shop business, ensure that you first conduct a thorough feasibility studies and market survey. The possibility of you coming across similar business that just closed shop in the location you want to open yours can’t be ruled out.

These are some of the key factors that you should consider before choosing a location for your gourmet popcorn shop business;

  • The demography of the location
  • The demand for gourmet popcorn in the location
  • The purchasing power of the residents of the location
  • Accessibility of the location
  • The number of gourmet popcorn shops, supermarkets, mobile food trucks and any other outlets that also sell gourmet popcorns in the location
  • The local laws and regulations in the community
  • Traffic, parking and security

Starting a Gourmet Popcorn Business – Technical and Manpower Details

On the average, there are no special technology or equipment needed to run this type of business except for gourmet popcorn making machines, storage hardware (bins, utensil rack, shelves, food case), counter area equipment, computers and receipt issuing machines, sound system (for playing music), Point of Sale Machines (POS Machines), CCTV Cameras and Flat Screen TVs. You will also need computers, internet facility, telephone, fax machine and office furniture (chairs, tables, and shelves) amongst others and all these can be gotten as fairly used.

As regards leasing or outright purchase of a store facility, the choice is dependent on your financial standing, but the truth is that to be on the safe side, it is advisable to start off with a short – term rent/lease while test running the business in the location. If things work out as planned, then you go on a long – term lease or outright purchase of the property but if not, then move on and source for other ideal location/facility for such business.

When it comes to hiring employees for a standard gourmet popcorn shop business with more than one outlets, you should make plans to hire a competent Chief Executive Officer (you can occupy this role), Admin and Human Resources Manager, Merchandize Manager, Shop Manager, Gourmet Popcorn Machine Operators, Sales and Marketing Officer, Accounting Clerk, and Cleaners. These are some of the key employees that you can work with. On the average, you will need a minimum of 5 to 10 key staff members to run a small – scale but standard gourmet popcorn shop business.

The Services Process Involved in the Gourmet Popcorn Business

When it comes to the business services process of a gourmet popcorn shop business, there are no hard and fast rule about it. Basically, it is the duty of the merchandize manager to help the organization purchase corn, ingredients, assorted gourmet popcorn flavors and packaging/serving materials.

Once the gourmet popcorn shop business is in full operation, the popcorn are prepared and they are listed on the menu. Gourmet popcorn purchased from a gourmet popcorn shop is usually taken away because the shop may not have the capacity to accommodate all customers per – time.

Starting a Gourmet Popcorn Business – The Marketing Plan

  • Marketing ideas and Strategies

Generally, running a business requires that you should be proactive when it comes to marketing your goods or services. If you choose to launch a gourmet popcorn shop business, then you must go all out to employ strategies that will help you attract customers or else you will likely struggle with the business because there are well – known brands that determine the market direction for the gourmet popcorn shop industry.

As a matter of fact, your marketing strategy should center on quality, pricing and above all excellent customer service. You should ensure that whenever your customers visit your gourmet popcorn shop, they will get quality products and excellent service. The truth is that if you are able to put the above stated in place, you won’t struggle to retain your old customers and at the same time win over new customers.

Businesses these days are aware of the power of the internet, which is why they will do all they can to maximize the internet (videos/YouTube) to market their services or products. In other words, a larger percentage of your marketing efforts should be directed at internet users.

These are some of the marketing ideas and strategies that you can adopt for your gourmet popcorn shop business;

  • Open your gourmet popcorn shop with a party so as to capture the attention of residents who are your first targets
  • Advertise on the internet, on blogs and forums, and also on social media like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn to get your message across, so that those on the social media or those who read blogs will know where to go when they need to purchase gourmet popcorn within your location
  • Create a basic website for your business so as to give your business an online presence
  • Directly market your products
  • Engage in road shows in targeted communities from time to time to promote your gourmet popcorn shop business
  • Join local gourmet popcorn shop business associations for industry trends and tips
  • Provide discount days for your customers
  • Advertise our business in community based newspapers, local TV and radio stations
  • List your business on yellow pages ads (local directories)
  • Encourage the use of word of mouth marketing (referrals)

Factors That Will Help You Get the Right Product Pricing

One key factor that will help you sell your gourmet popcorn at rock bottom prices is to purchase your corn and other ingredients from wholesalers in pretty large quantities. The truth is the higher the quantity of items that you purchase directly from wholesalers, the cheaper you tend to get them.

Another strategy that will help you retail your gourmet popcorn at the right price is to ensure that you cut operational cost to the barest minimum, and channel your efforts towards marketing and promoting your brand name. Aside from the fact that this strategy will help you save cost, it will also help you get the right pricing for your products.

You can also try as much as possible to work with independent contractors and marketers; it will help you save cost for paying sales and marketing executives and also purchase.

Strategies to Boost Your Gourmet Popcorn Business Brand Awareness and Create Your Corporate Identity

If your intention of starting a gourmet popcorn shop business is to grow the business beyond the city where you are going to be operating from to become a national and international brand by opening chains of gourmet popcorn shops and franchising, then you must be ready to spend money on promotion and advertisement of your brand.

No matter the industry you belong to, the truth is that the market is dynamic and it requires consistent brand awareness and brand boosting cum promotion to continue to appeal to your target market. Here are the platforms you can leverage on to boost your brand awareness and create corporate identity for your gourmet popcorn shop business;

  • Place adverts on both print (newspapers and food and drink magazines) and electronic media platforms
  • Sponsor relevant community based events
  • Leverage on the internet and social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google + et al to promote your gourmet popcorn shop business
  • Install your billboards in strategic locations all around your city or state
  • Engage in roadshows from time to time in targeted neighborhoods to create awareness of your gourmet popcorn shop business
  • Distribute your fliers and handbills in target areas
  • List your gourmet popcorn shop business in local directories
  • Advertise your gourmet popcorn shop business in your official website and employ strategies that will help you pull traffic to the site
  • Position your Flexi Banners at strategic positions in the location where gourmet popcorn business is located
  • Ensure that all your staff members wear your branded shirts and all your vehicles and vans are well branded with your company logo