ConAgra: Popcorn offers promising potential

by Eric Schroeder
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OMAHA — The popcorn business could yield promising potential for ConAgra Foods, Inc. in the new year, according to executives with the Omaha-based company.

Tapping into the popularity of its ready-to-eat popcorn, Orville Redenbacher’s in January will roll out a new snack: Pop Crunch. Gary Rodkin, chief executive officer, described the product as “unique” and “truly different” in a Dec. 20 conference call with analysts.

“This is a ready-to-eat popcorn with a very significant crunch,” Mr. Rodkin said. “It has half the fat of a regular chip, and allows us to compete in a bigger way in salty snacks. We introduced this product at the National Association of Convenience Stores trade show this fall as part of 18 new branded items.”

Pop Crunch is air popped and is made with whole grain, is gluten-free and is kosher. The new snack comes in four flavors: white and sharp cheddar mix; brown sugar cinnamon; cheddar and caramel mix; and Parmesan herb mix.

Andre Hawaux, president of the Consumer Foods division of ConAgra, said the Orville Redenbacher’s brand is “very strong” and has lots of opportunities for growth in the year ahead.

“What we’re seeing with consumers is a move from microwave — still a big, viable business — to this notion of ready-to-eat bag snacks, and we’re actually capturing that trend as well,” Mr. Hawaux said. “We’ve had really good performance with our first launch of our Orville ready-to-eat product in standard flavors, and then now Gary articulated we are launching Pop Crunch.

“You will see us doing more of that as we see consumers moving to that convenience and that ready-to-eat. We believe the Orville franchise is very strong and we have a lot of opportunities … and the innovation team is looking through what exactly can we do with that franchise, beyond the ready-to-eat offerings that we have today and other things in microwave. We think we have some opportunity in microwave as well, with various blends and other things that we can do with popcorn. So we feel very good about the franchise.”

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