[POPPED] Artisan Popcorn: Local Business Bursts with Growth & Flavor in 2019

[POPPED]'s fifth anniversary is this year and the local company have new flavors in the works as well as product additions.

January 19 is National Popcorn Day, and Diana and Devin Gillihan, owners of Tucson-based [POPPED] Artisan Popcorn, are probably more excited than most.

They have a lot to be excited about.

First, they’re about to start their fifth year as a Tucson business, and they are expanding. Small business’ anniversaries and growth are important accomplishments, even in a steady economy.

The business “started from zero” in 2014, according to Devin. First, it was a food truck in Oregon. Now their popcorn is available in retail in four states: Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas. Most of their business is wholesale, and mostly in Arizona.

Tap and Bottle and Pueblo Vida Brewing Co. were their first local customers. Now Southern Arizonans can pick up a bag at places as diverse as Time Market (Devin says they carry a good variety and display it beautifully); The Downtown Clifton hotel; and Serial Grillers’ new taproom endeavor, Craft: A Modern Drinkery.

Consumers can buy the family’s many flavors online as well; or they might luck out and have the snack served at a catered business function, or receive a gift box, of which the company ships hundreds per month.

The secret to [POPPED]’s success?

Word of mouth, according to Devin. So many bars and pubs, he added, can’t serve proper meals, but they can sell packaged edible items. And what goes better with beer than popcorn? (Maybe one other snack? It’s coming up; read on.)

Bags of Freshly Made Popcorn by Popped Artisan (Photo credit: Popped Artisan)

Bags of Freshly Made Popcorn by Popped Artisan (Photo credit: Popped Artisan)

Speaking of flavors, the next kernel the family has to celebrate is the new flavors they’ve added to their already extensive selection, which already includes fun varieties like their famous Lemon Poppyseed, Truffle, and Chai, and seasonal tastes like Mexican Hot Chocolate. After much experimentation and encouragement, [POPPED] has released a “cheese” flavored popcorn: Cheddar and Cracked Pepper.

Thing is, all their products are dairy-free. They’re also non-GMO and nut- and gluten-free. So how does one craft a cheesy popcorn sans dairy? And what about their caramel flavors, including Mole Caramel and Caramel with Sea Salt? How do they do that without butter?

Rice bran oil for the win.

Yet another exciting bite of news: [POPPED] has broadened to include that other, aforementioned beloved bar snack: pretzels.

Per the company’s website, “there are two kinds of snack people in the world: popcorn lovers and pretzel lovers.”

Their new Pretzel cocina generates flavors like Molé Negro and Romero, which features rosemary.

And they’re even honoring snack people who have a foot in both camps with their popcorn-pretzel pub mixes. Specifically, they’re hand-crafting a Baja Pub Mix, sprinkled with chile and mesquite powder. The pretzels and mixes are offered in a new bag, which nicely complements their signature hand-stamped brown paper bag that Diana designed herself.

All this is excitement is taking place in their new production facility, which is still Downtown, but large enough to generate new foods and house the total of four employees in the [POPPED] family.

Every once in a while, Devin added, the production facility will offer new flavor reveals in a pop-up-style open-house setting. 

For more information and to make online purchases, visit poppedartisan.com.

Angela Orlando is an anthropologist who owns Wandering Writers Workshops — retreats that take writers around the world. She’s into all things plant- and animal- and food-related, especially when cheese is somehow involved. She throws pottery and eats from her own handmade plates.