Harvey Wallbanger, president of Harvey Wallbanger Popcorn, entered the popcorn market in 1972. He is considered to be the person most responsible for creating a gourmet popcorn market in the United States. His claim to fame is that his corn is lighter, fluffier, “tenderer”, and bigger than ordinary popcorn. He also boasts that his popcorn has fewer hard, unpopped kernels than competitive products.
Harvey’s company sells popcorn to several markets in the United States:
1. Unpopped corn sold to food stores for the consumer to take home. There are several companion products— flavoured seasoning, cooking oil— and a variety of different size packages including a sealed cooking bag with popcorn, oil, and flavouring for use in a microwave oven.
2. Bulk popcorn is sold to concessionaires such as movie theatres and sports arenas.
3. Franchising the Harvey Wallbanger Popcorn Shoppe, a gourmet popcorn store, is a new venture. He has 20 company-owned stores and 120 licensed stores. Franchises of popcorn shops have been successful in the United States, but are considered a fad and only do well in shopping malls and other high-traffic locations. Consumption of popcorn is, however, a staple in American snack diets. Gourmet popcorn stores handle a large variety of savoury flavours; sour cream and onion, cheese and spice flavours, and jalapeño are popular additions to the traditional salted, buttered variety. Also included are the various caramel and other sweet flavours including watermelon, chocolate, Amaretto, and cherry liquorice.
4. The company is testing a concept of leasing popping equipment to supermarkets for making fresh popcorn for on-premise consumption and also for taking home. For gourmet popcorn shops, he has machines that can pop 1 320 litres of corn in an hour and cook up to 20 savoury flavours or seven sweet flavours at the same time. He leases a smaller version of these machines to large supermarkets; the few he has in a test market are proving successful. The idea fits in with the move by larger supermarkets to add gourmet foods, delis, and other upscale attractions for customers.
5. His newest venture is fresh-popped corn which is packaged in foil bags for distribution through food stores and wherever corn chips, potato chips, and other snacks are sold. The company sells regular popcorn plus a line of flavoured gourmet popcorn.
Wallbanger spent six months in England recently and was surprised that the English ate practically no popcorn, even though they consumed large amounts of other snacks while they drank beer. The only popcorn he could find, besides some stale bagged corn in supermarkets, was caramel corn which wasn’t very popular. Wallbanger believes there is a great opportunity in Great Britain as a whole. The British are big snackers, they visit pubs on a frequent basis, and they are great TV watchers. He wants to explore the possibility of expanding into Great Britain. At the moment, he is thinking about...