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What I've Learned, | Jan 04, 2014

Inga Smith, popcorn innovator

From snickerdoodle to Chicago mix, this Hoosier's corn is poppin'.

Inga Smith, of Inga's Popcorn, admires her popcorn handywork at her store in Bloomington, Ind.

Inga Smith fell in love with popcorn as a child when she watched her mother make popcorn balls from her grandmother’s recipe. Now 51, Smith continues the family’s popcorn tradition through a small chain called Inga’s Popcorn, found in Bloomington and Zionsville. After running her own business, Smith learned how to create and sell a variety of flavors of popcorn.

Organic popcorn tastes different than commercial popcorns.

All popcorns taste different. So you just have to use lots of different ingredients to figure out the one that makes what you’re going to cook taste the way you want it to. Sometimes the “no fail” recipe isn’t as good as you thought it would be. You have to work really hard on improving it.

Popcorn demand changes constantly.

What’s really popular today might not be so popular two months from now.

If you want an honest opinion, ask an elementary school teacher.

When I have a new flavor I try to get people, like an elementary school teacher from where I worked 10 years ago, and have them try it to give me their honest opinion. And they’re good about it. They give me good comments and criticism on how they think it could be better.

If I go with what is popular, then I’ll probably sell more of it.

What I have found out is that when I go into an area where people have not tried Chicago Mix, a combination of cheddar and caramel popcorn, they won’t try it. It doesn’t sell. Caramel is my biggest seller until they try Chicago Mix, because they only know caramel. So that is a good seller in new areas.

Popcorn is the key to a good community.

I find that having the community supporting me makes a huge impact on my store. And it’s from me having them test my popcorn and me asking their opinions. I do lots of little events, and I have them sample like crazy.

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