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Colorado Companies to Watch Class of 2012: Rocky Mountain Popcorn Co.

For Karen Bradley, it’s all about the popcorn: The flavor. The quality.

And especially – the location, location, location.

When she bought the 20-year-old Rocky Mountain Popcorn Co. (RMPC) in 2007, Bradley wanted to take popcorn where no one had gone before: convenience store shelves.

Move over, pork rinds.

“Consumers were looking for healthier snacks, and in convenience stores, there were no popcorns at all. There were chips and a lot of things that are really bad for you,” Bradley says. “We saw an opportunity to take a great product, rebrand it, and put it in a class of trade that was missing a healthy, salty snack.”

Now, RMPC fans can find the brand in convenience stores, truck stops and airports nationwide, and sales have exploded – from about $500,000 to more than $4.5 million, Bradley says.

Innovation drives the company’s direction.

“When we went into convenience stores, the little bit of popcorn that was there was in very large pillow-sized bags, which is really too big for a single serving,” Bradley says. “So we came out with the grip and pour bag. It travels well, it’s a single serving, and it fits in a car cup holder, which is very important for the on-the-go customers.”

Branding is another factor that sets the company apart, she says.

“We focused on all the healthy aspects of Colorado and tried to create packaging that evoked all the healthy lifestyles. We constantly (hear) what a healthy-looking package this is. It’s gluten-free, nut-free, it’s natural.”

That health-conscious image goes hand-in-hand with the company’s dedication to sustainability. Its factory and headquarters are powered entirely by wind energy; its products ship in cardboard packaging made in Colorado and Sustainable Forest Initiative-compliant.

And the ideas never seem to stop popping at RMPC. A popcorn ball sold in drugstores for the holiday season has been followed this year by a patented toasted corn snack called Poplets, which has a corn nut-like flavor without all the fat.

“When we started this seven years ago, we basically had no competition at all in convenience store popcorn. Now, if you look around, all you see is popcorn,” Bradley says. “And finally, some of the leading industry folks have said popcorn is the snack of 2013. 

“We thought it was the snack of 2007.”

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Lisa Ryckman

Lisa Ryckman is the Associate Editor/Online at ColoradoBiz. Contact her at lryckman@cobizmag.com.

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