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Fall 2011 Look Who’s Popping

A natural popcorn franchise pursues an aggressive mall expansion strategy.

When Rob Israel first tasted kettle corn in Colorado, he never expected that one day he’d own his own popcorn franchise. But it did get him thinking.

At the time Israel was working in the clothing manufacturing industry and living with his wife, Renee, in New York City. Israel, who was open to new opportunities at the time, says the popcorn he tasted in Colorado set an idea into motion—he would sell gourmet popcorn in high-traffic areas like malls.

The type of kettle corn Israel tried in Colorado is produced with propane in outdoor sites like farmers’ markets. To bring the concept indoors, Israel decided to use electrical equipment. Keeping it healthy was another key goal. “There didn’t seem to be better-for-you popcorn options out there, and I wanted to bring a healthier snack to malls that was still indulgent and delicious,” Israel says.

Despite having no prior experience in the food industry, Israel developed the flavors and technology, and from the Israels’ small Manhattan kitchen the Doc Popcorn brand was born. The family moved to Boulder, CO and opened the first 
Doc Popcorn location there. In 2009 the Israels started offering Doc Popcorn franchises.

Top pop

Doc Popcorn offers nine flavors—sweet butter, classic kettle, cheesy cheddar, better butter, triple white cheddar, salt-n-pepper, caramel kettle, hoppin’ jalapeno and sinfully cinnamon. In a mall setting, carts offer three to five flavors, while kiosks or inline stores sell all nine; the popcorn is popped fresh on-site at each location using corn oil.

All the popcorn is made with no artificial colors or flavors, no MSG, and no genetically modified food products. “We want our product to be something that you can eat a whole bag of and still feel good afterward,” Israel says.


As of press time there are about 30 Doc Popcorn locations in the United States, and the company is focusing on an aggressive mall expansion program. Doc Popcorn is also pursuing contracts at two airports and looking at that market for expansion.

Potential POPrietors, as Doc Popcorn franchisees are called, complete a form on the company’s website. “They’re called within 24 hours and talked through the key elements of the franchise program,” Israel says. Total fees range from about $60,000 for a cart package to about $150,000 for an inline store. Depending on what the POPrietor’s goals are, the Doc Popcorn team gets them started on real estate acquisition right away, including negotiating the leasing terms.

As for food licenses, there are different procedures in each state, but a bonus is that Doc Popcorn is a rare fresh food concept that does not require running water. No refrigeration is required and the product is shelf-stable as well.

“We’re very protective of our franchisees. We want to make sure that they’re getting in the right centers and the right location in their centers. We want the POPrietor and the mall to make money and for everyone to feel good about us being in the area,” Israel says.

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Kristin Larson Contino

Kristin Contino is a freelance writer and copy editor based in Philadelphia. She writes for a variety of print publications and blogs, and also covers women's fiction for

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