Most people probably don’t think very much about what goes into microwave popcorn. The convenience of opening a plastic bag and popping a package into the microwave has become so commonplace that most of these appliances come equipped with a “popcorn” button; within a few minutes you have a hot, buttery snack in your hands.
But Julie and Marty Lapham, cofounders of Popzup Popcorn, were not convinced that this was the best way to make popcorn in the microwave.
“Popcorn is a seed, it grows from a plant. It should be so healthy,” Julie Lapham said. “It was so frustrating that popcorn kernels are so healthy but microwave popcorn is so toxic.”
She said the packaging, oils, and other ingredients used in traditional microwave popcorn take away from the snack’s natural benefits. The goal of the Laphams’ Dover-based company, and their patented Popzup Popper, is to provide a healthier and more environmentally conscious method of popping popcorn while maintaining fresh taste and the convenience of the microwave.
How it works
Popzup popcorn is sustainably farmed and GMO free, and its reusable boxes are made with unbleached paperboard and vegetable-based ink.
For the consumer, Popzup popcorn takes little more effort than traditional microwave popcorn. Each Popzup box comes with 12 pouches of kernels; just empty a pouch into the box, lock the folding lid in place, and put it in the microwave for one and a half to two minutes.
Once the popping is complete, consumers are free to flavor their popcorn however they please. Popzup makes and sells organic, solar-evaporated sea-salt seasonings along with their popcorn. Marty Lapham’s preferred flavoring: pure coconut oil and a few dashes of Popzup’s Sriracha Sea Salt seasoning.
For the Laphams, the popcorn business is a much greater time investment than a couple of minutes in the microwave.
From developing their patented boxes and finding just the right paper with which to build them, to sourcing their ingredients from a farm that shares their ideals and their mission, the road to creating Popzup has been a long one for the husband-and-wife team. Sitting in their relatively new production facility in Dover’s Washington Street Mills, Marty Lapham recalled the previous November, when they had been weighing and bagging popcorn kernels by hand.
“It would take us two hours to do a 50-pound bag,” he said. He motioned to a machine behind him. “This (machine) can do that in 10 minutes.”
Spreading the word
Popzup’s new facility, which they moved to in March, is a bright and bustling workplace. In addition to streamlining production, the “factory” has allowed the Laphams to keep up with growing demand from local retailers and individual online orders from as far away as Washington and California.
“It’s kind of a leap of faith,” Marty Lapham said of the investment in the new facility and equipment. “There’s no other way to do it.”
When the Laphams aren’t hard at work at their production facility, they can often be found at farmers markets and retail stores across New England, handing out samples of their product and giving demonstrations of how it works.
Reaching out to their costumers and exposing people to the Popzup Popper is a huge part of their business. They said that just getting people to understand how Popzup is different from traditional microwave popcorn is the biggest challenge the company faces.
“In a store, customers just see another red box on a shelf,” Marty Lapham said. “It’s good to be there and be able to say, ‘Here, let me show you how it works.’”
As the company grows, Marty and Julie Lapham plan to stay true to their mission: “providing people with a healthy option and a good value.”
The photos used in this article are courtesy of the “Language of Business,” a TV show focused on disruptive technologies. Popzup was featured on a June 5 segment of the show. Learn more here.