Doc Popcorn franchisees Mike Hanson and Lee Springer in front of their PopCart at the Raging Waters Amusement Park, a Palace Entertainment venue in San Jose, Calif.It began when Renee and Rob Israel started popping and blending their own, naturally flavored popcorn in the depths of their New York City kitchen. With an undeniable love for popcorn and a passion to have it grown more naturally, the Israels moved to Colorado, the foodie capital of the nation, to start selling their popcorn. Now, Doc Popcorn is the largest popcorn retailer in the world known for its fresh-popped, all-natural product. The company plans to open 15 new locations in Palace Entertainment venues across the country.
With Boulder, Colo., being the silica valley for natural food, it made a lot of sense for Rob and Renee to start testing their natural food concept there to develop a clientele. After spending six to seven years getting the concept right, Doc Popcorn began franchising in 2009 and continues to grow at a rapid pace. Whether at a rest stop, airport, casino, mall or other high-traffic venues, Doc Popcorn has had remarkable results in Colorado and beyond.
As Rob Israel likes to put it, "We want to do for popcorn as Starbucks did for coffee. If you told anybody 15 years ago that there is going to be this concept of coffee that's going to be everywhere, and it's going to do crazy volume in kiosks and mall locations all around America, people would think you were faddy. But it's not like Starbucks takes coffee sales away from the mall or other areas, it just finds additional sales. That's what we see Doc Popcorn doing."
When Doc Popcorn is sold at alternative venues like Palace Entertainment, popcorn sales increase between two to 10 times. In Red Rock Stadium in Denver, the food service team was selling 823 bags of popcorn. When Doc Popcorn moved in, that number climbed to 9,000 bags.
Although some may argue it is the all-natural ingredients, Israel argues that the success of Doc Popcorn that distinguishes it from other popcorn retailers has to do with the branding, the well-designed and clean kiosks, and most importantly, the taste.
"I think a lot of companies get into trouble by saying they have this great natural product that's going to sell rapidly, but they forget about the taste," says Israel. "Our product is great-tasting and it just happens to be natural. If you go to stadiums and arenas, people generally don't care about the quality, so it's got to be really delicious."
With 12 different flavors, such as hoppin' jalapeño, sinfully cinnamon and salt-n-pepper, that you can mix and match, branded-carts where the employees are always well-dressed, and a promise that the product is always consistent, it's easy to see Doc Popcorn's unique features that foster its growing success. But, how Doc Popcorn competes is by being selective with its locations. Non-traditional venues, whether that's an airport, Palace Entertainment venue or even Disney World, provide big growth opportunities for Doc Popcorn.
"The non-traditional venue growth is dramatic for us. People and places are opening up and we want to be in the best locations, and that's why we chose to franchise as our business model," says Israel.
In most of the best locations, such as Mall of America, Doc Popcorn's goal is to continue the growth in the mall world, but also use that success and leverage to roll out into non-traditional venues across airports, stadiums and arenas.
In terms of its non-traditional growth model, Rob Israel exclaims that the partnership with Palace Entertainment has been "really positive for everybody." The partnership followed the success of Doc Popcorn's first PopCart unit at the Lake Compounce Amusement Park, a Palace Entertainment venue in Bristol, Conn., where they sold $60,000 worth of popcorn in less than a season.
According to Israel, "We have the branding right and we are not a billion flavors of artificial junk. Our flavors and our overall product are very simple and efficient."
And that's another reason why Doc Popcorn soars over its competition. While other popcorn businesses are making 50 flavors, they only sell three to six. And with 79 franchised units, and one company-owned, Doc Popcorn's business methods are a dependable model for owners and operators.
With great business methods comes great Doc Popcorn's franchisees, or as Israel likes to call them, "POPrietors." The Doc Popcorn team continues to make their POPrietors more successful, which is one of Israel's goals for Doc Popcorn in the future, along with the growth of their brand efficiently and effectively across America.
"Say your favorite ice cream flavor is Ben and Jerry's New York Super Fudge Chunk," explains Israel. "We want to become what ice cream is, but for popcorn. It doesn't exist, but the market is ready for a player."
By continuing this drive of evolving the sale-unit level, there is no reason not to think that Doc Popcorn will one day be the main player for popcorn. And if it isn't apparent enough already, Doc Popcorn's success with its franchising model has nonetheless sparked a popcorn revolution in the U.S., and eventually the world.
— Blair Siegler