People don’t get tired of popcorn, I love it, we simply love it. Theatre popcorns. Caramel corn. Lightly-salt n’ sweet Kettle corn, oh yes. Even microwave popcorn, we just gotta have popcorn. Glenn and I couldn’t say no to an invitation from Christine Lindner (of Flavorful Insight) to come to Beaver Dam, Wisconsin for a “behind the scenes” tour of Chippy’s Popcorn Creations, “We’d love for you to make gourmet popcorn with husband and wife team, Scott and Linda Chipman.”
Chippy’s Popcorn Creations is the newest venture of culinary experts Scott and Linda: a 30 plus flavors of homemade gourmet popcorn, “freshest, local ingredients used make Chippy’s popcorn treats” simply irresistible. To me, Linda’s “terrible creative brain” and Scott’s “constant analyzing the product” makes Chippy’s popcorn a standout. Move over Garrett…Chippy’s Popcorn Creations deliciously making her way into the scene. I had a great time chatting with Linda, here’s my full interview….
Tell me how you got your hands busy with popcorn.
We were kinda fed up with our restaurant, my husband was an executive chef in NC, and I was working for several chain restaurants. We were just maxxed out —every holiday, weekends and 70 hours a week. We were introduced to kettle corn at a festival in Kentucky. My sister introduced me to a friend who has that business. We didn’t make a big deal of it at first — popcorn with a bit of sugar in it. But we ate a big sack of it on our way home from Kentucky to NC. So we never gave it a thought after that. A year later, we found ourselves at a point where we really needed a change. Scott was unemployed and I was working for an apartment community. I left the restaurant business to manage apartments. So we said, what about that Kettle corn thing.
My family is in Wisconsin. We borrowed the money to buy the equipment from my dad who lives in Wisconsin. And we started doing shows in NC and we were losing money in every show. And we said , “oh this is the stupidest thing we’ve ever done.”
Because of too much competition?
No, because people would spit it out, and say “ew, it got sugar on it”… and yes, there’s sugar. So that first year, we were losing money and “oh my gosh, we gonna have to get back to work”. But what we did because our family is in Wisconsin, we booked several shows in Wisconsin for the summer. So we came up here, we were out of money, we were flat broke, “we have our equipment, and if we couldnt make money up there, we gonna sell the business and we would be done with it”.
Our first show was in Wisconsin Dells and we would have thought we made a million dollars, obviously we didnt. For us, we really made a profit. And every show we did in Wisconsin, it was a profitable show. So we went back to NC and our fall season was the same — we didn’t make any money. So we put our house for sale and we moved to Illinois. And here we are 11 seasons later, we are still selling the kettle corn with our mobile trailers. We still doing the road shows. and we actually bought this building 2 1/2 years ago because we needed it for our trailers, 3 of them, as storehouse for our equipments. The equipments became too big to store in our house. So we had this building. and we decided last year that the next logical step is to build a commercial kitchen. Because many of our customers keep asking, “where can we get this popcorn when you are not working?” or “If you are not coming to my farmers’ market, how can we have this?”. So we put up our full kitchen last year.
Strict regulation in Wisconsin?
Actually it’s not very strict. But because both of us had our restaurants before, when the lady came in for inspection, she was really quite impressed, and she was quite, “this is your first time, and you did this all by yourself, really?” Yes, we knew what we needed, we knew what made sense because we worked in a kitchen environment before. So it really went smoothly. We passed our inspection right away the first day that she came. We didnt have any issues. Everything really went smoothly. And we opened in July last year.
What was it like when we opened?
I was very scared the first day. At that time, we had probably about 10 flavors . So not a lot, but we didn’t advertise, because my husband was still in the road 6 days a week with the trailers. And I was in the shop. We didn’t have the opportunity to work together like we have always. So we started small, soft and quiet. ‘Cause I didn’t want to make people mad. I know that in this community, if you make them mad from the beginning, it’s very hard to win them back. We told everybody that came in that by Christmas we gonna have about 50 flavors of popcorn, we will have tin cans, we will have this, we will have that. And we made that promise, but we did it very softly and quiet for the first few months.
Why so many flavors?
“What we have found over the years, even when we started our kettle corn business in 2002 (the very first show we did we only sold kettle corn), not everybody likes kettle corn. We found out right away we needed to do other flavors. That very first year, we added cheddar cheese, and then we added the caramel glaze. The same approach goes with the shop. When you have a shop setting, if you only have just a few things, people might go, uh, it’s not really a big deal. And then they’re out the door. .. and they may not come back. So for us, part of it, was appealing to every taste…that you can have something that you can make it sell. Also people are just amazed…the more you have creates that wow factor that they wanna tell their friends and family. Actually the folks that were just here when you were just coming in, the daughter was from NC and the son was from Tennessee, and they’d been in here probably 6 times while they were home for the break. They said they just love this place. and they can’t wait to come back to Wisconsin again.”
How do you manage your stock or inventory?
We try to rotate items, depending on seasons, and everything is made only 5 gallons at a time.
How long for storage?
Airtight, they can keep up to 6 months. But we don’t keep them around that long. Like we had a peach flavor, it wasn’t moving that well, so after about 2 months, we just put a sale sign on it and then you know the sale moves it. But we don’t like to have it around for a long time.
So how did you start transforming popcorn into other products?
We have done some things. At halloween, I took popcorn, grind it up and mixed it with rice krispies. Then i flatten them up in a sheet pan and cut into squares, stuck it on a stick and made a green frankenstein base on it and we call them franken bars. It was popcorn and rice krispies made into like marshmallow bars. I also took our kettle corn and instead of rice krispies, I made traditional marshmallow krispy treats but using kettle corn. I made them into bars, made a pumpkin coating in it and we had some bloody eye balls and some different halloween themes decorated with sprinkles.
If you could go back to the beginnings, what would be your approach or what changes you would have done?
Much in the same way that a restaurant can buy soup in a bag, you can buy popcorn toppings in a bag and just add it. But because we have culinary degrees, we were not satisfied doing that. So our caramel corn, that was a culmination of about 3 months. I had a couple testing panels. I had various recipes and I let them blind taste them. I eventually melded a couple of recipes and then tweaked it to what would appeal to most people — good flavor and of course a nice buttery finish to it.
What are the normal complaints about the popcorn?
Every popcorn has the hull, even stuff that is called hull-less, still has hulls in it. Will still have but thin —but small kernels though with this type of corn. But different varieties and growers grow different type. We have use corn grown by the Weaver Company in Indiana and we found out that you can’t just buy it at a wholesale price, but we have to buy it from a distributor of that product. We have used that for 11 years and it is a wonderful popcorn. It takes a very nice flavor, it’s yellow colored and pops into white. But it does have less of the hulls than a cheaper variety. But we pay more for that too, we buy the best that is available. It costs us more, but it is the better product. And as people get older, they have this acquired diverticulitis, they can’t digest seeds or things that might get stuck in their intestines. So that generally strikes people in their late 40s and that takes strawberries out of the picture, popcorn or anything with raspberries.
What was your experience like of your first holiday season?
It was really a lot of fun setting up the entire operations — it was indeed a challenge! Scott and I, both being from the restaurant business and working in management positions of very large operations, found ourselves working many 15 or 16 hours per day. A little bit crazy, you work hard …but really it was a lot of fun. This Christmas, we set up some displays of examples of what we can do. We said this is how much the box would cost, and we will fluff it and stuff it and bow it to look pretty — and you just choose what you want to put in it. So you can just have a gift package of 20 dollars up to 100 dollars. And that was really nice. What we really like to focus on is giving some systems into place so that we can have mail order a little more readily available. The website is still not completed. There’s a lot to do with it. It’s difficult. One thing that I’m finding…unless somebody knows what’s going on in my head or if they know me well, it’s hard to convey things to somebody else. After the holidays, we have to get into our game plan, we need to attack our website and agree on how we want it to be set up. We probably will start with the core flavors, not 50 yet.
I have to admit I love watching corn popping in fairs. You do pop everything on site?
We pop everything on site…for road shows. We did take some of our confetti with us towards the latter part of the year. And that went pretty well. But what we find with the kettle corn stand — they want the product that’s popped right there. They are not really looking at the stuff that’s packaged. Cause they think they might be made several days ago. So it is very interesting about how people’s perceptions change eventhough we tell them we just made these yesterday. And brought it from my shop. Perception is so different in those areas. So the smell is what people draws to that mobile.
When a customer comes to the shop, what normally happens?
“We have samples of everything that is available. Many of them are self-serves that you can just pour into your hands. We usually start with asking them if they have been here before. We give them a quick tour. We have our Chicago-style cheddar and our Wisconsin white cheddar and Mrs. Chippy’s…all served warm. So that’s kinda the focal point when you walk in. We usually try to explain the difference between other caramels sitting next to our standard popcorn. We let them kinda explore the sweet and savory samples.”
Prefer more savory than sweet?
“Sweet is the most popular. Caramel corn…people love the root beer float. the confetti, we sell a ton of that, that’s with all the different flavors mixed together. But the savory options are wonderful too. We’ve been selling a lot of those beer cheese. The pizza is very popular. The hot buffalo wings is a good one.”
Did it take you several months to come up with these 30 plus flavors?
“I have a terribly creative brain and I consider it a blessing, but sometimes it just doesn’t stop. So I have to reel myself back in. I have some BLTs seasoning back here ( I suggested tomato and basil!). The possibilities are endless.”
Tell me about the popcorn equipments. Savory and sweet done in same equipment?
We have those done separately. Essentially we pop them in the kettle corn equipment. To pop a batch, it takes about 10 minutes. When we make a sweet batch, we make a bucket, about 5 gallons. When we are just popping the corn up, we make 10 batches of corn which we call base corn…those big packages that are here. so those are just plain popcorn. and we have a sweet cookery. and savory will be tumbled with either cheese, oils or whatever we use for flavorings.
How long will flavor to be tossed to develop?
Once the base corn is popped, a batch of caramel corn takes us from beginning to end about 15 minutes. To make a savory batch, probably about 15 to 20 minutes.
Chippy’s can customize the flavor, color, size and packaging for a one-of-kind, gourmet flavored popcorn?
“It really is about customisations in today’s world. We are used to getting whatever we want, how we want it. That’s what we want to offer to people. If somebody’s got an idea, whether it’s fried crickets or grasshopper, I’ll make that flavor (laughs). I could do that. I’ll laugh the day that I get that request. If somebody wants something, we want to be able to do it. Popcorn is such a blank canvass that you really can do anything with it. It just takes thinking outside the box to be able to offer that. That kind of thinking makes customers loyal to the brand. It makes their experience so much better when they have a part in picking and choosing what they want.”
So what is your vision to make popcorn not seasonal..and instead an everyday treat?
We have a lot of wonderful ideas. Valentine’s coming up and we have some fun things to show you. Easter, St. Patrick’s Day. This month January 19 is the national popcorn day, so there is really something going on every month. Also sports themes. So it’s about putting our names out there. Sort of saying, Hey think of us. Instead of going to the grocery store, why not come here and have your party. We have done some weddings in the past. That’s a huge market for us to hit as well. Kettle corn packages and put colored bows in it. Cake made out of popcorn…that’s where marshmallows come in, and you can mold it into anything. There’s a lot of ideas. Popcorn even for movies…we have this 4 foot bag of popcorn and those are great for get togethers. theater popcorns.
How do you compare Chippy’s popcorn with other brands?
“The thing that we take pride in is that we really use our own secret recipes. We didn’t take what the popcorn equipment salesperson told us. He said all you have to do is add water and..we said no. We didn’t want to take his word for it. We thought we don’t want to face our customers saying it is homemade or is from scratch ..when really, it is not. So I think that differentiates us from a lot of companies. And you can tell the difference. We’ve been to a lot of popcorn shops. We know the products that they are selling. Not that there is necessarily wrong with it, but it is unique. We take pride in telling people that our popcorn is from scratch recipe. We add a little more of this and that. We constantly analyze our product and keep utilizing the flavors that are out there in the world.
So I think that really differentiates us from others.”
What about the challenge of putting a price on popcorn?
I kinda have a knack for pricing things without actually taking a calculator and figuring it out to a penny. So i kinda have that. I think there is a fine line about pricing. Price that is a little too low, sometimes that’s not good for people. And a price that’s too high, then they say that’s expensive. I have taken that upon myself when costly ingredients are involved. With those I really take a pen and paper to make sure I’m getting a fair price of it. So far, I havent received any negative feedback about our pricing structure. Pretty much, flavors have different price tags.
5 years from now how do you see your business?
We love the road shows because that was what gotten us to this point. Being in the events is so much fun for us. What we really see happening is to be known as a brand, beccoming a brand that people recognize. Right now when you see our kettle corn stand at the farmers market, the biggest thing you see is kettle corn. But we want people to say Chippys is here. So we really see our company growing as a brand that people desire. We like this retail area to be busy all day, we love this retail area for our community. We feel that it is important for our community to have something like this. There’s not a lot for families here, so we love this outlet to be here..cause it is fun stuff.
Linda just had to pop the question, “If you were to create a new rendition of popcorn, what would it be?”. I hinted about Philippine-style adobo, but my quick reply was “Caramel Mango”. Linda wants 50 plus flavors so I think she’d consider the caramel mango flavor. After all, it’s caramel, it’s mango…a winning combination to me. The popcorn can be purchased online at http://www.chippyspopcorncreations.com or by phone 920.885.CORN (2676) or at the shop in Beaver Dam, WI.
(Pls click photo to view the slide show!)
Many thanks to Christine Lindner of Flavorful Insight for this press release…
2013 — The Year of Popcorn (National Popcorn Day is January 19)
Popcorn is THE snack of 2013. That’s according to Sterling-Rice Group (SRG), a brand strategy and creative firm who works with several top food companies. Popcorn is among SRG’s Top Ten Food Trends for 2013 and will likely pop up in everything from salads, as croutons to ice cream flavors. With appetites growing for global and healthier food choices, popcorn is ready to go big next year.
Culinary experts, Linda and Scott Chipman of Chippy’s Popcorn Creations in Beaver Dam, are excited for popcorn to take the snack stage in 2013.
“A few years back there was quite a bit of popcorn buzz in fine-dining restaurants,” says Linda Chipman. “I’ve seen the upswing again with the influx of new shops around the country opening.”
To celebrate 2013 as the year of popcorn, Chippy’s will be introducing several new flavors. One fresh taste will use smoked sea salt, a unique global seasoning. Another flavor will bring a modern twist to one of America’s oldest snacks by adding glitter to popcorn for added sparkle and glitz. Chippy’s is also creating a popcorn that local farmstead creamery’s can use in crafting a popcorn-flavored ice cream.
Along with the New Year comes, National Popcorn Day on January 19. Enjoy the day with family and friends, take in a movie or throw a party and have celebration-worthy popcorn, CORNfetti — a flavor-packed rainbow popcorn mix that offers a taste for everyone.
With popcorn deemed the snack of 2013 add bliss in one’s life with this fun food of many flavors. Choose from the 30 plus gourmet popcorns to signature favorites, such as Mrs. Chippy’s Caramel Corn to Chicago Style Cheddar available all year round. Seasonal flavors include: Oreo Crush, Pretzel Chip Kat Crunch, YummChata, Oatmeal Cookie, Turtle Pop and Hot Buffalo Wing with Bleu Cheese ‘Dressing’.
For any occasion, event, gift or holiday celebration, Chippy’s can customize the flavor, color, size and packaging for a one-of-kind, gourmet flavored popcorn.
SRG’s 2013 Top Ten Food Trends were compiled by a team of more than 100 famous chefs, restaurateurs and foodies. For the complete list of SRG’s 2013 Top Ten Food Trends visit http://www.srg.com/permanent/2012/10/2013-culinary-predictions.
To order online, visit http://www.chippyspopcorncreations.com or call 920.885.CORN (2676). Connect with us on Facebook to get the latest on new flavors, specials and mouthwatering gift ideas. Located at 507 Madison Street in Beaver Dam, Chippy’s Popcorn Creations is open Wednesday thru Saturday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Chippy’s Kettle Corn, LLC founded in 2002 by culinary experts, Scott and Linda Chipman, have been crafting fresh gourmet kettle and popcorn using only the freshest, local ingredients from around the Midwest. Their newest venture, Chippy’s Popcorn Creations delivers a truly fresh, homemade gourmet popcorn experience with 30 plus flavors, specialty blends and seasonal inspirations. Chippy’s gourmet popcorn is the perfect taste for every occasion, every holiday and every day.