Culture Pop blends French gastronomy and healthy on-the-go popcorn

The lemon and thyme popcorn is Culture Pop's most popular product.

Popcorn start-up Culture Pop is blending French gastronomy and healthy on-the-go snacks with its premium popcorn flavoured with specialty ingredients such as white truffle.

Co-founders of French start-up which operates from London Valentine Burelle and Hadrien Bellanger had the idea to create a range of flavoured popcorn when they travelled to Vanuatu, an island in the South Pacific and were stranded at the airport with nothing to eat apart from spiced popcorn, which was being prepared and sold by a local islander. 

"So we had the idea to 'reinvent' popcorn. Indeed [in France], you only eat popcorn in cinemas and leave half of it on the floor. But it is so good, healthy and you can season popcorn with any spices and ingredients you want," said Burelle, also the company's director. 

Culture Pop has four flavours in its range: sweet and salty made with sea salt from Guérande; lemon and thyme; sweet chili made with Espelette pepper which has European protected origin status (PDO); and truffle made with white truffle olive oil.

The story behind the ingredient sourcing lies at the heart of Culture Pop’s branding, and its website has an interview with each of its suppliers – a thyme grower in

Provence; a producer of Espelette chili in the south-west of France; sea salt harvesters and two truffle producers in the south-east.

It's this attention to the ingredients that helps Culture Pop stand out from its competitors, Burelle told FoodNavigator.

“We are passionate about French gastronomy and all the different varieties of food you can find in France. We used to go to farmers’ places to try new things, new recipes and learn from our culture. 

“This is when we decided to create Culture Pop [with] recipes that would be tasty and innovative, with a French twist and all inspired by French specialties.” 

French Touch

The focus on French is a key differentiator, she said.

“In the UK, there is a big demand for premium snacks and especially for popcorn. There are already a lot of competitors on the UK market such as Propercorn, Poshcorn or Joe & Seph. But we decided to focus first on the French market [where] there’s a high demand for local products that are 100% made in France and for a new alternative to traditional snacks. Popcorn is ideal as it is healthy with less fat than crisps or pistachios, and can be gourmet with innovative recipes.” 

The products are popped, spiced and packaged in Normandy in the north of France, and any new products in the pipeline will be based on corn – which is non-GMO and locally sourced from Nataïs.

Premium packaging for posh popcorn

The packaging is intended to reflect the premium and natural qualities of the

products. “We wanted to create a snack but didn’t want to have a traditional crisp bag to pack our innovative popcorn recipes. We wanted to have a stand up bag in kraft to reflect the fact that our products are local and natural.” 

“We work with a young French designer who made our designs and labels and she succeeded in creating labels that show all our values and the spirit of Culture Pop.” 

Subscription boxes opening the door to overseas markets

Gourmet popcorn is already a food trend and a big success in the UK and Nordic countries [and] we have plans to export. We will soon work with a subscription box in Denmark and we are talking to other subscription boxes in Spain and in the US. We are also considering starting to sell in the UK

The start-up sells its products on its own e-commerce shop as well as some bricks-and-mortar outlets, retailing at €10 for four 30 g packets.

“As we want to develop a strong brand image, we want to first sell our products in concept stores, premium and independent grocery shops, cafés, bars and hotels,” said Burelle. “We are not targeting big supermarkets as we are looking to have a premium image.” 

So far the start-up has funded its venture exclusively through personal assets but it plans to launch a crowdfunding campaign to both promote the brand as well as expanding the business with new flavours and employees.

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