Gourmet Popcorn, a Top Snack Food Trend, is Popping Up All Over

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Gourmet popcorn, one of the top 10 food trends of 2013, has a North Conway, NH-based company “On Cloud Nine.” That's just as it should be says Bobby Bell, owner and “master popper” of Cloud Nine Delights, a snack food company that specializes in handcrafted small-batch popcorn.

Fair-goer receives NH Kettle Korn sample.

Bob Bell is always happy to provide free samples at festivals and fairs where he makes and sells his small batch Cloud Nine Delights popcorn.

People are saying good-bye to cupcakes and higher calorie snacks, and hello to popcorn because it really is the perfect snack food.

According to the food marketing company, Sterling-Rice Group, and the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade, gourmet popcorn is one of the top ten food trends for the 2013—and that's just as it should be says Bobby Bell.

Bell is owner and “master popper” of Cloud Nine Delights, a North Conway, New Hampshire-based company that specializes in handcrafted small-batch popcorn. Bell founded the company 15 years ago, but has recently seen explosive growth, thanks to the heightened interest in unique flavors, like Cloud Nine Delights' sweet and salty NH Kettle Korn, caramel-coated Karmal Bliss, and Cheeze Cheddar Popcorn.

“People are saying good-bye to cupcakes and higher calorie snacks, and hello to popcorn because it really is the perfect snack food,” explains Bell. “Popcorn is all-natural, whole-grain goodness that's gluten-free and the perfect base for sweet and savory flavors.”

Where towers of cupcakes once were center stage at events, now popcorn bars and goodie bags are popping up at weddings, birthday parties and other celebrations. “Customers are buying our popcorn in bulk and serving it in large bowls on popcorn bars, and asking us to make single serving bags for party favors,” says Bell.

“Schools and nonprofits sell our popcorn as a fundraiser—we provide selling tools and incentives—while companies like to use our popcorn as a corporate gift. They provide us with their client list and the desired delivery dates, and we take care of shipping it throughout the year. We do variety packs, grab'n go size packs and a single serving size for kids. We even have a special pack for camping trips—our NH Kampin' Korn—that includes everything needed to make great popcorn over an open fire, all in one bag. ”

Bell is quick to point out that no additives, articial flavors or colors are used in any of Cloud Nine Delights snacks. “We only use locally-grown, whole kernal, non-GMO corn from a farm in Fryeburg, Maine, along with soybean oil and other natural ingredients. We use cane sugar and gourmet salt in our NH Kettle Korn; quality cheddar cheese in our Cheeze Cheddar Popcorn; and brown sugar, fresh creamery butter and our signature blend of secret spices in the Karmal Bliss.”

While the Doc Popcorn chain, which claims to be the biggest retailer of popcorn in the world, has focused on franchising, Bell has taken a more personal approach to selling his Cloud Nine Delights snacks.

“Ours is truly a family business. My son, Mat, and daughter, Jacqui, travel with me to fairs, craft shows, concerts and other large gatherings where we make and sell our popcorn, stirring it up in custom-made kettles using canoe-type paddles. Our first show was the Big E, the biggest fair in New England, and we were an immediate hit. When we do these big events, people wait in line for as long as 45 minutes to get a bag of our popcorn—and we have two kettles cooking constantly. Many of these customers have become regulars, stopping back to see us, year after year.”

Bell sells his Cloud Nine Delights snacks online at http://www.cloudninedelights.com, but has taken care to ensure that he is every bit as engaged with his online customers.

“When people sign up for our newsletter at join(at)cloudninedelights(dot)com, they receive updates on our shows, popcorn points of interest, and sales and specials. Those who send in photos featuring our popcorn and those who like us on Facebook are entered into a monthly drawing for a case of gourmet popcorn. If they share their birthday date with us, we will send them a free birthday bag. Making and selling our products is fun for us, and we want enjoying it to be fun for our customers, as well.” Bell recently launched an updated website and is offering free shipping in June as a thank you to site visitors.

The snacks are also available through retailers including grocery, convenience and specialty stores, and farmstands. “We personally deliver to most of these outlets so that they always have the freshest possible product on hand. We also try to support our retailers by doing in-store events where we set up our kettles and give away free samples. When I meet with store owners for the first time, I always tell that that we’re so sure their customers will love our all-natural snacks, we’ll provide them with a trial order and, if after a week, if they’re not sold out, they pay only for what they’ve sold and we’ll take back the rest. In 15 years, we’ve never had to take back any of our product.”

For more information on Cloud Nine Delights snacks, contact Bobby Bell at 603-494-3445 or visit the Cloud Nine Delights website.

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Bob Bell

Donna Stuart

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