Popping Up Everywhere
Cajun Pop Louisiana Style Popcorn is in the right place at the right time.
“My favorite flavors are definitely the Boiled Crawfish or King Cake, sometimes both at the same time… That’s a little trick I learned so that you can make it sweet and savory all at once.
Mike Coates, Cajun Pop owner
A kernel of a good idea has exploded for Baton Rouge entrepreneur Mike Coates, whose Cajun Pop Louisiana Style Popcorn has been popping in popularity with post-COVID consumers looking for a healthy, ready-to-eat snack.
Coates launched Cajun Pop in 2019, inspired by a love of Cajun flavor
“The real goal was to make a go-to Louisiana type of snack food that my Cajun-food-loving friends would be able to enjoy at any time of the day, in any city or state they want,” said Coates.
Coates has popped into a fast-growing industry. According to AlliedMarketResearch.com, the global popcorn market was valued at just over $9.8 million in 2020, and is projected to more than double by 2031, reach $18,827.12 million in sales.
In this market, it’s all about creativity.
“Growth in the popcorn category is being driven by new flavor innovations and new packaging sizes and formats,” said a July 2022 “State of the Industry” report by SnackandBakery.com. “Hot and spicy microwave popcorn and cheddar jalapeño popcorn in family-sized bags are just two examples. Expect to see more innovation in the near future.”
The same report stated that from May 2021 to May 2022 the ready-to-eat popcorn/caramel corn category in the United States was up 12.1% with total sales of $1.8 billion.
DID YOU KNOW? High in fiber, popcorn contains nearly 4 grams in a 4-cup serving, as well as a significant amount of polyphenols that can help lower blood sugar levels and
Popcorn has long been recognized as a healthier snack option, which have increased in popularity in the past few years.
“Coming out of a pandemic that forced everyone to suddenly evaluate their health and take precautions to protect it, healthy snacks and challenger brands are growing in popularity with consumers seeking out more nutritious options,” said a June 2022 report in SpecialtyFoodsMagazine.com.
Cajun Pop products are available in 15-ounce, family-sized bags ($5.96 each) and are packed with locally inspired flavor. Eight varieties include classics like cheddar and caramel, in addition to out-of-the-box options such as “Creole Pickle,” “Southern Ranch,” “Pecan Pie,” and “King Cake.”
“Our flavors are easily inspired by traditional Louisiana Cajun food,” Coates said. “Using other popcorn flavors as a base, we add ingredients from the real dishes like boiled crawfish, king cake and beignet to add to our pop and make the corn stand out as a Louisiana food.”
Cajun Pop popcorn can be found in stores across Louisiana, as well as Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, Texas, Minnesota, Colorado and New Mexico, as well as online and on Amazon. In addition to Walmart, Sam’s Club, Rouses and Associated Grocers (stores such as Acquistapace’s, Breaux Mart, Canseco’s Market, Dorignac’s, Langenstein’s and more), the company is quickly gaining fans through sales in local grocery stores and hotel and airport gift shops.
Coates and a team of three full-time employees are headquartered in Baton Rouge. Cajun Pop is produced in Chicago “by the same manufacturer as other major popcorn brands such as Skinny Pop, and packaged in Dallas,” said Coates. “I run the manufacturing side myself but have employees in ordering and accounting. We are seeing tremendous growth, so we hope to expand our team soon.”
While he has relatives in the grocery industry, Coates himself does not have a culinary background.
“My background is actually in pipe and vessel fabrication as an estimator and a vessel designer,” he said, “where I learned a lot about manufacturing and business in a general sense.”
While the business continues to grow, Coates sees the future of Cajun Pop as almost unlimited in its potential and is aiming high and taking inspiration for some fellow Louisiana brands that have found success.
“Cajun Pop has been growing ever since we launched in 2019,” he said. “We have taken full control of the manufacturing process so we can produce enough popcorn to expand across the country… Our aim is to get a share of the national market, hopefully expanding the Cajun brand as a whole and making our culture a little more recognized on a national level. Sort of like Slap-Ya-Mama or Zapp’s.”
Cajun Pop flavors include: King Cake, Boiled Crawfish, New Orleans Beignet, Pecan Pie, Dat Cheddar, Kickin’ Caramel, Creole Pickle