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Purpose, Strategy & Culture

The SkinnyPop Story: How We’re Building a Mega-brand

SkinnyPop is one of the fastest growing salty snacks. We’re doing it by following a simple formula that focuses on knowing our consumer, and building a culture around delicious and permissible snack.
Kyle Banahan
VP Marketing, New Ventures

Key Takeaways:

    •  SkinnyPop is the fastest growing ready-to-eat popcorn brand, having doubled in size between 2013 and 2019. 
    • We're expecting more growth in the next five years. 
    • Hershey is keeping up the momentum by understanding SkinnyPop consumers, who love the product because they can eat it without feeling bad about themselves.

For more than a year, the poppers at SkinnyPop have been working overtime, 24 hours a day, to meet the demand for the country’s fastest growing popcorn brand. SkinnyPop is truly popping, having doubled in size between 2013 and 2019. We expect more growth in the next five years as more people discover just how good (and guilt-free) SkinnyPop popcorn can be.

When I reflect on how we’ve built SkinnyPop into a mega-brand, my mind goes to the three commitments we’ve made: knowing the consumer; staying close to the core, and leaning into the marketing. Here’s how we’re doing that.

1. We’re continually working to understand the consumer.

SkinnyPop joined the Hershey family in 2018 with a bang (or pop, if you will). It’s part of Amplify Brands, which is one of Hershey’s most successful acquisitions. From the earliest days, we set out to understand who eats SkinnyPop, and why they love it so much? To understand this, we even brought together consumer groups and asked for feedback. We created a SkinnyPop lovers social media group and began talking—and listening—to them. We dug into our broader snacking research to understand consumers’ relationships with snacking in general. And when we brought all that data together, we unlocked the insight that unites SkinnyPop consumers everywhere: they love that they can enjoy lots of SkinnyPop without feeling the guilt usually associated with salty snacks. That’s what’s propelled it to become one of the fastest growing brands in the entire salty snack category.  

2. We’re staying close to the core.

SkinnyPop is popcorn. We know that our consumers know that, and we’re not trying to be anything other than popcorn. So, when it comes to innovation, we’re not pondering “How can we become something unlike SkinnyPop?” We’re thinking: “What role do salty snacks play in a consumer’s day, and where can SkinnyPop fit in?” In other words, what “job” can SkinnyPop fulfill? Are consumers watching their weight? Are they planning a family happy hour? Are they looking for a snack companion to a school lunch or work lunch? What about a late-night snack? The answers to those questions reveal innovation opportunities, such as creating new pack sizes (our SkinnyPop multipack is among the fastest growing in all salty snack multipacks), and producing our sweet &salty Kettle Corn, which is lower in calories and sugar than others on the market.

3. We’re leaning into marketing.

The growth of SkinnyPop has been organic, which is a beautiful thing. It’s given us time to be really methodical in our approach to marketing and to learn what works in terms of media, messaging, frequency and targeting, before we start blindly overinvesting. We’ve seen our social media platforms continue to outperform vs benchmarks, and streaming video platforms have been working well to help us reach our core consumers. At the end of 2020 we did a match market TV test and found that we had almost four times the return vs. our snacks benchmark. Because of that, we’re preparing to launch our first broad-based, linear TV campaign, which will air starting in January. My hope is that the new campaign will introduce even more people to SkinnyPop. Our research shows that one try is all it takes to become a SkinnyPop loyalist, after all: nearly 80 percent of consumers who try SkinnyPop come back for more. The new campaign aims to let consumers know what SkinnyPop fans already know: that you’ll want to eat the whole bag—and you can.

Building a culture around a crave-able, permissible snack

SkinnyPop has made its name as a simple, classic, crave-able and permissible snack. It’s as authentic as it gets, and that’s what’s fueled its massive growth. At Hershey, our products have always been guided by our purpose to be a part of more moments of goodness, and SkinnyPop is no different. SkinnyPop can be that fun after-school snack, it can fuel an impromptu work meeting, it can make family movie night feel special, and it can satisfy late-night salty cravings—by the handful, or by the bagful.

I’ve worked on the SkinnyPop brand for nearly six years, and I love telling people what I do because of the positive reactions I get: “Oh, I love that brand.” Or “My mom loves that brand.” Or “My wife doesn’t let me have any of her SkinnyPop!” I’m just as eager to share my own opinions, telling them how much I love Original SkinnyPop—I know it’s a classic and the No. 1 seller, but it is truly the G.O.A.T. (greatest of all time). It checks all the crispy, crunchy, salty boxes, and I’m not ashamed to eat the whole bag. I also love telling people that my kids think I physically make the popcorn, myself. When we’re in public and we have SkinnyPop, they say that their dad is “a popcorn maker.”

Some snacks just speak for themselves, and SkinnyPop is one of those snacks. It’s up to our team at Hershey to keep up the momentum by understanding what consumers want, innovating when and how it makes sense, and reaching new consumers so they, too, can be a part of the SkinnyPop success story.