Monday, 22 October 2012

Corn in Portobello: Pop goes your money! Pop on Blenheim Crescent.

I've written about 'Pop' the popcorn shop on Blenheim Crescent previously; slightly puzzled at how such a niche venture could survive in an area of escalating rents. I now know how!

I arranged for a 5 year old and his mother try the place out (I am obviously too old for things such as popcorn) today. The following is entirely their opinion.

They liked the packaging - this is important because it was half the weight.

The sweet stuff was too sweet and tasted a little burnt.

The savoury stuff was ok, nothing special and perhaps a little soggy. Nothing to write home about.

They bought a box of cheese popcorn and brought it home. The box and it's contents weighed 80 Grams, the popcorn weighed 40 Grams. the cost was £3.45. I'll do the maths for you; this works out at £86.25 per Kilo... More expensive than foie gras; the most expensive foodstuff I could source (outside Beluga caviare and silly Japanese things). This is why the shop works: yummy mummy is spending a fortune on a handful of highly inflated starch.

The girl in the shop was nice and let them taste different flavours and she said she popped it herself but at these prices it should have been popped by Johnny Depp dressed as Willy Wonka with a kiss thrown in for mummy!

Also there was no information regarding additives, flavourings, MSG or nuts on the pack.

As a comparison a 70 gram pack of popcorn from Tesco cost £1.00. the same thing is on sale in The Grocer on Elgin Crescent (the most expensive food shop in the area) for £1.20!

I have received the following from Matt at Pop:


If I do have right of reply, I’d appreciate you representing all my views?

Thanks for coming in. all views welcome, and we’ll look at the shortcomings you pointed out; though I have to say the vast majority of people, whom I’m sure you wouldn’t think are any less smart than you, taste the product, make a choice, and buy some. And many, in particular locals, come back again and again. We’re very happy about this, and because we want to encourage their business, we offer regular customers a discount and are in the process of having loyalty cards printed; it is a sneaky marketing ploy, yes, but it is also meant to make people understand that if they come back they’ll get treated well and regular customers appreciate it. 

So on to price. A full box of flavoured corn is £3.45. If you’re a local and you have a card, it’s £2.75. If you buy two it’s £2.50 each. If you buy a large bag of olive oil and seasalt corn, or sugar-coated corn, it’s £2.20. If you have a party and want single-size servings for kids, it’s a quid. We’re also trying to find some inexpensive snack box type things and get them branded up; buy one and when you bring it in, we’ll fill it for 50p. And I have to hand the government 20% in VAT. 

But let’s start with the headline-grabber – a box of popcorn for £3.45. First, we want to get bigger boxes for the ‘flavoured’ corn – for the coated ones, like English toffee and sea salt, the portion is big enough. So fair point. But let’s look at the costs. The corn itself is not, no surprise, the biggest cost. The price of raw corn has risen 45% in the past few months with US crop failures, but it’s only when you add the flavourings – natural English cheddar cheese made into powder, with no additives, or the butter, three types of sugar, and vanilla that goes into the caramel, or the organic apple juice, natural cinnamon, etc that we put in the Apple Cinnamon – that you get the full picture.

The nice packaging is expensive, about 24p each. Even the labels cost about 9p. Add in labour costs, depreciation, rates, utilities, rent, waste disposal (businesses pay for every bag they throw away or recycle), and all the other costs then you’re left with a relatively slim margin. 

So there you have it, pretty much line by line. I hope it explains our business. It’s not as sexy a story as £100 a kilo popcorn. But then the reality never is as interesting as the speculative guess, is it?

A slightly patronising but sturdy response.

And my point does not come from a speculative guess... It is still ridiculously expensive!

By the way, Matt is a marketing guy and marketing guys do stuff like this... In order to disguise the fact that they just want our money!

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