How Much Air is in Your Favourite Popcorn Bags?

We all have our favourite lunchtime snacks and with many of us trying to be that little bit healthier nowadays, popcorn is rapidly becoming one of Britain’s most loved treats. A study from 2016 even revealed that popcorn sales have risen by a whopping 169% in 5 years!


While we all used to reach for our favourite packet of salt and vinegar crisps, popcorn brands have found a gap in the market by creating new flavours and quickly pushing crisps off the number 1 spot for lunchtime snacks.


But just like crisps, popcorn can also be a disappointment. Who else can relate to opening up packaging only to be met with hardly anything to eat in there?


Direct Air recently conducted a study to find out how much pop we get for our pound within our favourite brands and flavours.


It is almost a definite you have noticed this with crisps but have you ever noticed it in your popcorn? Of course, we can all agree that air, more specifically nitrogen, is essential to keep products fresh and protect them in transit from any damage, who wants crushed popcorn?


It appears some brands are using far more air than others, leaving consumers feeling out-of-pocket and even hungry after the anticipation of eating so much more than they received. 


Below are the full results:


Brand/Flavour Price per 100g (£) % of air
Proper Corn Peanut Butter & Almond 1.60 71
Nude Sweet & Salty 1.56 62
Nude Simply Salted 1.92 62
Tyrrell’s Sweet 1.94 57
Metcalfe’s Toffee Apple 2.25 57
Tyrell’s Sea Salted 2.50 55
Tesco Salted 1.24 55
Marks & Spencer Salted 1.54 55
Metcalfe’s Sweet ‘N’ Salt 1.25 54
Proper Corn Perfectly Sweet 1.78 54
Waitrose Sea Salty 1.43 53
Waitrose Sweet & Salty 1.11 53
Tesco Sweet & Salty 0.96 52
Butterkist Cinema Sweet 1.70 48
Butterkist Toffee 1.00 44
Marks & Spencer Salted Caramel 0.57 31


So, firstly we can see the staggering difference between the top and bottom scorers. Proper Corn’s peanut butter and almond flavour contains 71% air! Compared to a rather respectable 31% from Marks & Spencer’s salted caramel.


The average bag of popcorn contains 54% air alone, which means that for every £1.58 spent on your favourite treat, 86p is spent on air alone. Hardly value for money.


While this may seem like a big consumer issue, the environmental impact of these is far greater. ‘Pillow packs’ (the common term for this style of packaging) are estimated to take an astonishing 8 decades to degrade so surely manufacturers should be taking every step possible to reduce what ends up in landfill. Beach cleaners have reported having found crisp packaging from the ’80s that have not even started to wither, so this estimate may even be on the low side.


While many popcorn producers will argue the size of packaging needs to be as so to allow for enough nitrogen to deliver a quality product to consumers, why are some brands able to achieve this with so much less than others?


Some brands are certainly beginning to make a change, Marks & Spencer have pledged to reduce their plastic packaging by 20% and as they were the lowest scorers in this test, it looks like they have already made a good start.


Crisp manufacturers have certainly bowed to the pressure. Walkers have vowed to make all their packaging 100% biodegradable or recyclable by 2025 and considering they produce over 7000 packets every minute, this couldn’t come soon enough.


However, many brands are slipping the net and still producing unnecessarily large bags. Why this is we can not know for sure, maybe they want to give the appearance of more product or it could be some of the newer brands want to show off their jazzy logos and graphics and need more space to do so.


While it may be a few more years before single-use plastic is completely eradicated, this study has proven that it can easily be reduced. This will already have a positive impact on the environment.


Next time you are out shopping, why not make a conscious decision to choose a more eco-friendly product. It may not seem like much but even the smallest changes can make a positive impact on the planet, not to mention you’ll be getting more value for your money, it’s a win-win situation!


Alternatively, why not have a go at making your own popcorn, this eliminates all that nasty plastic and means you can control exactly what toppings you have. It’s also a lot cheaper and more fun!