Similar to main courses and beverages, snacks have seen some changing consumer preferences. When consumers shop for packaged popcorn in store or online, they look for tasty favorites and tried-and-true flavors. But they also want to sample the latest trends and seek out exciting flavors they haven’t tried before.

More and more, modern consumers are drawn to global tastes and what’s popular outside their region. Here’s a look at today’s consumers and the latest trends for popcorn insights in 2024 and beyond.


Consumer Preferences

As one generation moves out, another moves in. Today, Gen Z is the generation leading the way for what’s popular in food industries across global regions. They’re also the most “snack-craving” generation, with a strong preference for fueling their days with frequent snack breaks full of adventuresome flavors. 

In the popcorn industry, those desires are causing a shake-up in what's considered a sought-after snack and what's considered a popcorn flavor profile in need of a change.


Current Popcorn Trends

What popcorn flavors do Gen Z and (to a lesser extent) Millennials enjoy? We see that the predominant flavors tend to focus on a mix of long-standing favorites and unique flavors that range from sweet to savory. 


 Old Favorites

Among the established popcorn trends are familiar favorites like butter, caramel, and white cheddar. Whether enjoying the aromatic richness of butter, the sweet delight of caramel, or the bold tang of white cheddar, consumers have come to rely on these flavors in their popcorn rotation. The tried-and-true flavors have low-growth momentum, but they’ve captured a solid part of the popcorn market and have long-lasting stability. 

Others like mild cheddar cheese, salty pickles, and fragrant dill have a high-growth momentum, showing that these popular trends are still gaining market share even though they’ve been around for a while. 

Established flavors on the rise also include citrus, chocolate, and spice. We see consumer preferences that lead toward lime, with its tart yet refreshing notes, and milk and dark chocolate, with their creamy and rich flavors. Spices are also popular, and they range from cinnamon’s warm, woody, and fruity notes to jalapeno’s pungent, vegetal notes. 

We’d also be remiss not to mention another classic flavor: sea salt. This flavor, so simple yet beloved, adds a rich, savory profile that enhances the popcorn.


New Flavors

Gen Z tends to gravitate toward culinary curiosity, so it’s not surprising that consumers in this age bracket have latched onto unusual flavors that older generations might shun.

Younger consumers are showing interest in the bold sweetness of Bourbon vanilla, the refreshing punch of peppermint, and the taste-bud-pleasing complexity of sweet and savory. From this versatility, we see that consumers are mixing it up. There’s a certain appeal to paying homage to known flavors by applying them in a lesser-known way.

In the past three years, sweet and savory and vanilla/Bourbon vanilla have made a name for themselves, featuring among the top product launches. They have stable- to high-growth momentum and have gained a solid following. These flavor profiles show how consumers appreciate the complexity of different ingredients and want to keep their snacks fresh.


 Innovative Flavor Profiles

Looking at innovative profiles for popcorn consumption, we find no shortage of novel flavor notes that bring excitement and intrigue to the popcorn industry. 


Related: New and Innovative Chip Flavors On The Rise



Flavors inspired by bakery goods and candies have an abundant presence in the novel flavor category, with the richness of red velvet to the creamy, subtle flavor of cake batter on the rise. 

Other popcorn innovations focus on marshmallow with its sweet stickiness, churro with its cinnamon sugar crunch, and snickerdoodle with its sweet tang. Each of these flavor profiles has a low- to stable-growth momentum that increases as more consumers gain access to these unique popcorn flavors. 

In terms of confectionary sweetness, the chewy, minty notes of candy cane have also made their way into the popcorn market. This flavor appeals to consumers seeking a textured crunch in their snack, where the aromatic mint acts as a refreshing palate cleaner or a nod to family holiday memories. 



In the category of earthy, savory snacks, we see black truffle making waves as an innovative popcorn flavor. The nutty, decadent notes of truffle elevate popcorn snacks and make an otherwise familiar comfort food into a sophisticated experience.

Masala spice is another gourmet popcorn flavor. With its warm fragrance rich in cinnamon, cloves, ginger, coriander, cardamom, and peppercorns, masala brings a flavor-forward complexity that appeals to today’s consumers. 

Another innovative favorite is blue cheese. This bold flavor has plenty of earthy, tangy, and funky brightness. Its rich saltiness also helps enhance the popcorn’s subtle flavor. 



Flavor innovations don’t shy away from the plant world, either. Cactus (also called nopal) is heating up the charts with vegetal sweetness, often accompanied by hints of citrus and green beans. This succulent has been known to add a bit of tartness as well, bringing the popcorn a unique complexity. 

Finally, beer popcorn is the perfect snack for daytime, nighttime, or happy hour munchies. With its malty bitter notes and sweet citrus flavor, beer has a familiar presence in many snack routines and shows a solid growth momentum. 


Snacking Trends on the Rise

What do we see for the latest trends in the popcorn business? Emerging trends have a lot to offer, showing how consumers are shaping the popcorn market through their preferences and purchasing power.


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One of the biggest emerging snack trends is all about healthy eating, and Generation Z is at the forefront of this change. While healthier food choices are nothing new, it’s the snacks that have seen this change most strongly. 

We’re seeing a rise in low-carb snacks, especially those made with plant-based proteins. These snacks balance nutrition and flavor, giving consumers intriguing new textures and experiences. Dairy alternatives are also driving the popcorn market, shaping what consumers see when they grab snacks or small bites. From anthocyanin-rich purple kernel popcorn to matcha and coconut oil popcorn to avocado lime popcorn, there’s a growing trend for healthy popcorn that is as nutritious as it is tasty.


Limited Edition/Seasonal

Variability is another attractive quality, which is why limited edition and seasonal flavors are so intriguing to today’s consumers. When tied to the seasons, there’s a greater connection to the land and healthy eating. It also drives excitement on social media, giving Gen Z another outlet for shaping the market. 


Socially Conscious

Gen Z is the most socially conscious generation, with a strong desire to support diversity and sustainability in their personal lives and their purchasing patterns. Conscious consumerism often leads to increased interest in minority-owned businesses or companies that make a point to give back to the community. Brands that develop products using sustainable, eco-friendly practices also tend to be preferable for many younger consumers.



With immersive experiences, modern consumers take to social media to share their thoughts. This share-worthiness leads to greater brand awareness, which means that premium, exciting snack experiences can pay big dividends in the form of word-of-mouth marketing. Flavors inspired by immersive, luxury dining focus on the sensory experience. We see this range from polenta and strawberry popcorn to tapas-inspired popcorn to wood-smoked cheese popcorn.


Globally Inspired

Gen Z is consistently eager to reach across borders and sample new taste sensations. There’s a natural desire for global flavors, which have been shaping the dine-out market for a while. Now, that drive has turned to the snack industry, with popcorn emerging as a solid contender for incorporating global culinary influences ranging from comfort food to street bites. Some of the best popcorn flavors to emerge from this trend include tandoori masala popcorn, karaage popcorn, Mexican street corn popcorn, Mediterranean herb popcorn, and seaweed popcorn. 


To learn more about the latest popcorn trends and broader trends in the snack industry, reach out to Symrise for in-depth insights. 

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