Want to start a gourmet popcorn business?

Want to start a gourmet popcorn business?

Popcorn is a product that everyone knows. It is impossible to imagine a visit to the cinema without popcorn and soda. In ordinary cinemas, they sell salty and sweet popcorn, but besides this, there is also “gourmet” popcorn. What it is and how do you start your own gourmet popcorn business – read on, Robolabs will tell you everything!


I heard about gourmet popcorn. But still – what is it?

Spicy, cheesy, caramel popcorn, rainbow mix, Chicago mix, Toffee caramel – all are different kinds of popcorn, which is collectively called “gourmet popcorn”. To make such popcorn, special equipment is required.


Ok, what equipment will I need?

The most common way to make popcorn is the “wet” method. You will need regular popcorn machines with a kettle.

gourmet popcorn business
gourmet popcorn business


– familiar taste from childhood

– great crunches

– easy to cook at home

– very cheap equipment (Chinese machines start at $150)


– very high-calorie product

– large oil consumption

– cyclic technology requires a lot of operator involvement (every three minutes operator needs to weight corn and load the hot kettle)

– injuries, employees often burn their hands on the hot kettles.


There is an alternative “air” method. It uses entirely different equipment: the corn is popped using hot air, after that it gradually moves to the cooling zone.

gourmet popcorn business
gourmet popcorn business


– substantial cost savings because oil is not necessary

– produces a lower calorie product with lower dietary fat (saved by reducing oil)

– continuous cooking process


– popcorn is often hard and chewy (due to overheating in the hot zone)

– not very pleasant taste (grain proteins collapse from prolonged overheating)

– costly and complicated equipment (the price of air popper starts at $30,000)


About ten years ago, the third way was invented – the “Vortex” method!

The grain opens with hot air, but instead of gradually slipping into the cooling zone, the same hot air … blows the opened popcorn out! A small grain has a high density, but during bursting, it increases in size – so the airflow picks it up. Immediate removal of the opened grains from the heating zone preserves the taste and beneficial properties of the product.

gourmet popcorn business
gourmet popcorn business


– substantial cost savings because oil is not necessary

– produces a lower calorie product with lower dietary fat (saved by reducing oil)

– continuous cooking process

– simple cooking technology


– initial equipment adjustment is required (a measurement of grain moisture, setting air temperature)

– the technology is still not widespread in the USA (unlike in Europe and the Middle East)

– Equipment is more expensive than conventional kettle machines (but cheaper than air-popper). Cost Robopop25 is just $6500 (EXW Factory)


Is there any serious difference between the “wet” and the “Vortex” methods?

There is a difference in equipment. The final product is virtually the same – unlike “air”-popcorn, which in taste is a bit like Styrofoam.

Insert video “Comparison of the crunchy property with wet and vortex method.”:


Damn it, is it some higher mathematics !?

Food processing is generally quite a complicated thing. Making even such a simple product as “gourmet popcorn” requires a food processing engineer. The good news is that gourmet popcorn is one of the purest products: corn grain, coconut oil & special additives (salt, sugar mix, cheese powder – depending on the type of the final product). You can quickly master all the technology yourself – as many of our clients have done – but you still have to practice!

Insert feedback from Patrick Thornton from PopPopShoppe (USA) about how he started this business


Where do I begin?

Most often, equipment for the gourmet popcorn line will require:

– popcorn machine (our recommendation: Robopop60)

– caramelizer (pay attention to RoboSugar 20)

– mixer or coater (RoboMixMini is a useful little thing)


What are your advantages?

gourmet popcorn business
gourmet popcorn business


1) Robopop60 allows working with two types of grain: a butterfly and a mushroom. A butterfly is used for cooking “ready-to-eat” salted popcorn (a popular product). Mushroom corn is for caramelization (Step 2)

2) RoboSugar 20 – a unique “2 in 1” caramelizer. You can make caramel popcorn – toffee caramel, berry caramel (cherry, banana, blue raspberry, green apple, chocolate), rainbow popcorn (a mixture of all flavors). You can also make …cheese popcorn! Yes, the boiler can work at two different temperatures: caramel popcorn is made at 320 Fahrenheit, while cheese is produced at 115 Fahrenheit!

3) RoboMix Mini is a compact mixer for making spicy popcorn. Fill the oil, add spices and press the button – that’s it!


That is all?! Do I need anything else?

If we are talking about the gourmet popcorn manufacturing procedure, then this equipment is enough. If we take the next step — packing the final popcorn in a paper bag/plastic or bag/basket/cup with lid — then packing equipment is required. Depending on the type of package cost may vary. So, right now we will not discuss this issue.

Returning to the manufacturing technology of “gourmet popcorn” it is worth mentioning the raw materials.


Wait a minute, do I need something other than corn?

You will need two types of corn grain: butterfly and mushroom.

They behave differently when heated: the mushroom opens with a round ball, and the butterfly – in the form of an irregular blot (from the side it is remotely similar to a butterfly).

gourmet popcorn business
gourmet popcorn business

To make caramel popcorn, you also will need water, butter, sugar and a small amount of lecithin. And the secret ingredient is the Premix. Each equipment manufacturer sells its own type of premix, so finding this secret ingredient is not difficult.

Many gourmet popcorn manufacturers develop their own recipes after years of experimentation and research. But beginners are strongly recommended to use the recommended recipes of the manufacturer: first, we must learn to work according to the instructions, and only then the time will come for creativity.


Similarly, for cheese and spicy popcorn, ingredients are produced under different brand names with slightly different flavors.


Are there any life hacks?

Yes, several nuances greatly facilitate the life of a popcorn entrepreneur.

  • Conveyor belt instead of a cooling table.

The first “gourmet popcorn” was made using desktop caramelizers, and the finished product was separated on a cooling table. This is a stainless steel table with many holes in the tabletop. Air is blown through them, which helps crisp hot caramel popcorn. The operator must deflect popcorn with a deft hand movement in a reasonably short time – otherwise, the grains will stick to each other. Such a product is unsuitable for use – we throw everything in the trash! Quality first!


Modern caramelizers (for example, RoboSugar series) have a conveyor belt that performs separation in automatic mode. 1 button, 5 minutes, 10 gallons of the ideal product – easy!


  • Reduced labor cost due to automation

Kettle popcorn devices have a cyclical nature of the work. Every three minutes, the operator must put the ingredients inside a hot kettle. There is a standard proportion of raw materials. All ingredients must be weighed on the scales; otherwise, the product will be inconsistent…

Advanced vortex machines (for example, Robopop60) operate in automatic mode: the operator loads grain, oil, fills the bunker with salt – and presses only two buttons. The next few hours are only required to pick up the bags with the finished grain.


  • Use smart sensors

The devices in the Robopop series have many sensors. If a grain (raw material) ends in the machine, it will alert you with a beep. If the basket with popcorn is full – a particular sensor will ask you to put an empty bucket. If the machine runs out of oil – the oil level sensor will warn about this in advance. And by the way, these devices are very convenient in terms of settings: the client can adjust the level of oil/salt allowing you to make popcorn to suit regional tastes.


  • Setting up equipment for a specific batch of grain

Robopop60 can even be configured to work with the low-quality grain. We all understand “better ingredients are better pizza,” but in some regions (for example, in South-East Asia or Eastern Europe) customers have a different opinion. With the help of settings, they can adjust the temperature of the hot air and the power of the turbine – and therefore, to achieve good results even with poor grain.


  • And most importantly – saving on oil!

This is the main economic advantage of the vortex method. The fact is that in conventional devices with a kettle, oil is used not for taste, as for heat transfer. If you study the recommendations of manufacturers of kettle popcorn machines, then 1 pound of grain you need to use 1/3 pound of oil. This is quite a lot! Given that popcorn is fried in coconut oil (it is expensive), the cost of wet-popcorn is much higher than the price of Vortex popcorn. This difference is a few cents per standard V24 cup. But when in a year you produce thousands of popcorn cups, it will be tens of thousands of dollars.


A Vortex popcorn machine usually pays off in 6-12 months of use. This is a powerful competitive advantage that allows novice gourmet popcorn producers to compete with the giants of the industry successfully.


We wish you the best of luck and hope that this article was helpful – if so, feel free to push “Like”!

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