Popcorn and I have a love-hate relationship. I used to crave the little microwaveable packets; the intoxicating smell of butter could mask even the harshest of dorm room aromas. But then I took a look at the ingredient list: partially hydrogenated soybean oil, artificial flavor, and what the heck is propyl gallate? Some buttered popcorns didn’t even contain butter at all! The same can be said for pre-popped bags of popcorns like Smartfood or SkinnyPop. Although they have a cleaner ingredient list, they tend to be loaded with oils and calories. A 4.4-ounce bag of SkinnyPop’s white Cheddar popcorn contains 675 calories, 405 of those coming from fat.
Enter Pipcorn: the mini-popcorn that is leading the snack revolution. The company, started by power-sibling team Jeff and Jen Martin, has been featured on the “Oprah’s Favorite Things” list, Martha Bakes, Good Morning America, and Shark Tank. So what’s all the hype about? Just take a look at the tantalizing flavor selection that includes sea salt, white truffle, rosemary, and kettle corn. They only use non-GMO popcorn and olive oil, which reduces the number of calories derived from fat.
The Daily Meal had to chance to ask Jeff a few questions about the packaged food industry and how Pipcorn has managed to keep its ingredient list clean.
The Daily Meal: On the Pipcorn package, it says, “made in small batches.” As you continue to expand, how do you plan on maintaining the integrity of your product?
Jeff Martin: Maintaining integrity of the product is definitely the most important thing as we grow and scale. In short, we eat a ton of Pipcorn. In addition to our own manufacturing plant, we have great partnerships with manufacturers that are just as obsessed with quality as we are. Even with these relationships, we still have to test all the time to make sure we’re proud of the product going on shelves.
A lot of snack brands are drenched in sodium and flavorings. How have you managed to keep your nutrition label “clean”?
We launched Pipcorn in an effort to provide delicately seasoned, flavorful products. For example, we popped more batches than I could count in an effort to get the perfect amount sea salt in our Sea Salt Pipcorn. Something as simple as sea salt took us weeks to get the perfect balance. We take a clean nutrition panel very seriously as we develop new products.
What advice would you give entrepreneurs trying to break into the food industry?
Don’t give up! This industry can be trying at times, but it’s well worth the long nights and countless headaches. Aside from that, I would encourage finding a pseudo-mentor. It’s so unbelievably helpful to get advice from someone who has done it before. Even if it’s not in the exact same industry, find someone that has operated at a high level, and ask them everything. Maybe buy them lunch every now and again.
Compared to other snack brands, your calorie count is considerably lower. Was a healthier popcorn brand the plan from the beginning?
Yes. I’m so happy you noticed this. Some people are fooled by the names of other brands, thinking they’re healthy when then are far from it. As an example, we use less oil than almost every popcorn company out there during our manufacturing process. We’re very proud of this, so thanks for helping us spread the word.
Any new products in the pipeline you can share with us? Will there be a microwaveable Pipcorn in the future?
If I told you, I’d have to… just kidding! We are working on some things, but it’s top secret. You’ll have to wait and see.
I’ve got to ask: If you had to bring one of the Sharks out to lunch, who would you take?
Barbara! I’ve gotten to know Barbara over the last two years, and she continues to surprise me. I’m so unbelievably grateful for every moment I can learn from her, so Barbara. Final answer!