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A Passion for Popcorn

Kathi Caldwell-Hopper - May 7, 2013

WHAT IS YOUR PASSION? Kelly Untiet and Crystal Bailey share theirs with 37 flavors of popcorn.

WHAT IS YOUR PASSION? Kelly Untiet and Crystal Bailey share theirs with 37 flavors of popcorn.

If you are lucky enough to love your job, it isn’t really work at all, but rather a joy. That belief certainly holds true for the owners of Popcorn Passion, a Franklin-based business that offers some of the most mouthwatering and unusual popcorn flavors around.

The business began last December after months of testing popcorn flavors and honing a business strategy that would work in this most unusual type of endeavor.

According to the website for Popcorn Passion: “Our Popcorn Passion team is made up of hard-working, food-loving, 9-5er, business-minded superheroes. We live and work in the beautiful Lakes Region of New Hampshire! It’s our private passion for decadently dressed popcorn that inspired us to start Popcorn Passion. Our mission? To be a fun, imaginative and socially responsible artisan food gift company that remains committed to the quality of the Popcorn we sell.”

“We are a group of five friends who socialize together,” explains Kelly Untiet, director of operations and flavor engineer at Popcorn Passion. “We all love popcorn and we were underwhelmed by the lack of popcorn flavors we found.”

To remedy that problem, the group spent last spring and summer finding recipes, dreaming up new and fun flavors, and taste-testing over and over again until they had the right recipes for a variety of popcorn flavors.

“We use natural and organic products and we like to say we use only positive ingredients!” Kelly laughs.

With some delicious popcorn flavors prepared, the group launched the business at the Deerfield Fair to very positive reaction. Popcorn Passion was ready to move into a space with a big kitchen to make cooking and packaging the product much more streamlined.

Kelly found what she was looking for on Central Street (the main street) in Franklin. The business can’t be missed with the signature logo on a purple sign above the door. While the business is not open to the public, but rather is a working space for making popcorn and allowing customers to pick up orders (orders also are shipped from the location), many people are excited to have such a fun and unique business in downtown Franklin.

“I am here almost every day to cook and work,” Kelly adds. Crystal Bailey, one of the five popcorn engineers at Popcorn Passion, often joins her.

Both women love to cook; Kelly has been cooking and testing recipes since she was a child. “I am part of a food-loving family whose weekends revolved around cooking big meals and having food adventures. I loved to go to the local library and take out cookbooks. I recall finding an African cookbook and asking my parents to drive me far and wide to get the unusual (to New Hampshire) ingredients to make some of the recipes!”

Because the owners of Popcorn Passion love to try new food flavors and experiences, it is definitely reflected in the popcorn flavors they concoct. Kelly says she is a “hot food” person and loves spices. Thus, she created a buffalo and bleu cheese-flavored popcorn.

“We look up recipes and translate them into popcorn flavors. It takes a lot of testing to get the flavors we want,” Crystal adds.

“We make the flavors popcorn-friendly,” Kelly explains. “Popcorn is a finicky food and can’t have too much moisture. We do not use any artificial flavors or preservatives.”

Although the space is not a walk-in shop, the owners decided to open to the public during the last Christmas holiday season, much to the delight of shoppers. “We were very busy,” Crystal recalls.

At present the company features more than 37 unique popcorn flavors, with more being created all the time. New flavors get their inspiration from foods the owners might have while going out to a unique dinner, from a suggestion by a customer or friend, and sometimes a flavor that is a variation of something they found in a cookbook.

Kelly and Crystal are always striving for the delicious but also the unique in popcorn flavors. “We have a flavor wish list and one of our partners loves strawberry rhubarb pie and wants us to make popcorn in that flavor,” Kelly says.

“We are fussy about the quality of the popcorn,” Crystal comments. Although they are always busy and especially so during any holiday, care and skill goes into each batch of popcorn made in the spotlessly clean kitchen.

The most popular flavor at Popcorn Passion is definitely Chocolate Caramel. It is a flavor people are familiar with and it never seems to go out of popularity. For those with a sweet tooth, the flavors of popcorn are many: Amber Maple, Butter Caramel, Buttershots, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Chocolate Coconut Crunch, Cinnamon Bun, Creamy Peanut Butter Crumble, Pina Colada, Mexican Mole, Lakeside Mudslide, Strawberry Cheesecake, Tiramisu, and Toffee Butter Crunch are just some of the sweet flavors.

Cocktail-inspired popcorn flavors include Grasshopper and Happy Hour Sampler.

For those who like truly savory and unusual popcorn, the company offers Buffalo Blue, Fried Pickle, Garlic Parmesan, Pizza Pie, and Salt & Vinegar, among others.

Each month brings a fun featured flavor; for the month of April, Lemon Poppy offered a light, sweet-and-tart lemon poppy coating over popcorn.

“For Mother’s Day, we are offering a Mother’s Day Sampler with two popcorn flavors in a pretty box; the flavors are Pina Colada and Strawberry Daiquiri. For Father’s Day, we are working on a popcorn sampler in a six-pack box. The flavors will be announced soon,” Crystal says.

Because Popcorn Passion is all about unusual and flavorful food and doing what the group of owners loves to do, they like to partner with other businesses as often as possible. For example, they recently partnered with Lakes Region Cupcakes for a caramel popcorn cupcake. The result was caramel popcorn atop of decadent chocolate cupcake.

When the group of five started Popcorn Passion, it was definitely a leap of faith. Kelly says she was aware they were taking a big risk. The risk seems to be paying off and the shop anticipates becoming busier as the word spreads about the unusual popcorn flavors.

The popcorn makes wonderful gifts and, because of the art background of the owners, the packaging and logo are stellar, featuring a deep purple box packaging with purple ribbons. The company website also is very attractive, featuring the many flavors of popcorn offered.

In the future, Kelly and Crystal anticipate growing the online sales of the business. They already do a good online business and special orders for parties and events are growing.

“We know everyone has had popcorn at some point in their life,” Kelly says. “But not everyone has had our popcorn.”

Once they do, it is sure they will come back again and again for the many flavors at Popcorn Passion.

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