Disney World Levels Up Its Sweet Snacks With New Popcorn Junkie Flavors

As you cross the threshold into the Magic Kingdom and pass beneath the railway station, anticipation building in your belly, you are immediately welcomed onto Main Street. This vibrant small-town avenue bursts with life, featuring an array of shops, entertainment, and tasty food offerings, with the charming Confectionery offering some sugary sweet smells that waft into the street.

Stepping inside, you're transported to the nostalgic ambiance of a quaint candy shop, where handcrafted sweets, packaged delights, and, notably, gourmet popcorn await your awaiting cravings. Nestled within the Confectionery is popcorn from Central Florida's very own popcorn company, Popcorn Junkie. This small but mighty company has filled a significant void in the local snack landscape. Having seamlessly woven its way into the theme parks that are synonymous with Central Florida, Popcorn Junkie elevates the quintessential Walt Disney World popcorn-eating and snacking experience. For visitors, savoring Popcorn Junkie's specialty flavors serves to add a sweet and salty mix to the Disney day. We got a chance to talk with one of the founders, Neal Crosier, about the company's magical journey.

What is Popcorn Junkie

Popcorn Junkie, a quaint yet ambitious venture, was conceived by Neal and Minetta Crosier. Initially, the business was solely managed by the founding duo, but it has since expanded to include a staff of nine. Despite its growth, it remains a tight-knit operation. The company, which once operated a retail location, chose to pivot by shutting it down. Now, it uses a production facility that not only enables it to supply popcorn to various vendors but also facilitates direct customer orders through its website, enhancing its operational flexibility and customer reach.

Upon their relocation to Central Florida, the Crosiers stumbled upon a significant void in the snack market, specifically in the realm of delicious flavored popcorn. Having been accustomed to the rich variety of flavored popcorn in Chicago, where a mix of caramel and cheddar popcorn is nearly considered an essential food group, they were driven by a strong desire to fill this substantial gap in Central Florida. Of course, you could always opt for bagged popcorn flavors, or even make your own specialty popcorn with popcorn seasonings, but there's just something extra special about the professional fresh stuff. Their passion for popcorn led them to introduce this beloved snack to the region, seamlessly integrating it within the theme parks and beyond. This move capitalized on the untapped market potential and brought a taste of their Chicago roots to their new home, blending tradition with innovation.

Founder Neal Cosier relies on the call of creativity to create new flavors

Popcorn Junkie boasts an extensive array of popcorn flavors, including crispy caramel, sweet and salty kettle, cheesy cheddar, better butter, fiery buffalo, Parmesan garlic, jalapeño cheddar, cookies and cream, and even a unique sour cream and onion variant, among others. This wide selection underscores the brand's commitment to variety and innovation. Curious about the origins of such diverse flavors, Neal Crosier shared, "Creativity can strike at any moment, during production, in the middle of the night, or even while out and about with the family." Just like any other creative endeavor, Crosier and his team rely on that pull of creativity to bring new options to Popcorn Junkie fans.

Moreover, the company places significant emphasis on customer input for flavor innovation. Crosier elaborated, "When creating customer flavors, we listen to their goals, ensuring the flavor aligns with their theme or brand." This approach highlights Popcorn Junkie's dedication not only to creativity but also to customer engagement, ensuring that its offerings resonate with and reflect the preferences and identities of its clientele. By balancing internal inspiration with external suggestions, Popcorn Junkie successfully crafts flavors that are both unique and in tune with customer desires, fostering a dynamic and interactive relationship with its fan base.

Strawberry Crunch is the base layer of popcorn for a new treat

In anticipation of the Valentine's Day season, Disney collaborated with Popcorn Junkie to concoct the ultimate seasonal treat. The result? Strawberry Crunch popcorn; a new offering found in the Confectionery on Main Street in the Magic Kingdom. Additionally, for those looking to celebrate the holiday with a special snack, there's the "Sweetheart Popcorn" mix. This festive concoction uses Strawberry Crunch as its base and is topped with M&M's in coordinating colors, crushed chocolate cookies, mini marshmallows, and drizzles of dark and white chocolate. Prepared fresh in front of guests by the cast members, it's served in a white bowl with a clear plastic top for easy portability throughout the park.

For those hesitant about the strawberry aspect, our taste test should put your fears to rest. While Strawberry Crunch is indeed sweet, it leans more towards candy-sweet rather than fruit-sweet, with a candy coating that doesn't overpower the popcorn with strawberry flavor as we expected.

Popcorn Junkie's offerings at Disney parks aren't limited to Strawberry Crunch. Favorites like Better Butter, Cheesy Cheddar, and Crispy Caramel are also available in the Confectionery, alongside other seasonal varieties that make special appearances, much like Strawberry Crunch. And for those who love both cruising and gourmet popcorn, keep an eye out for Popcorn Junkie's flavorful creations making their way to the high seas aboard Disney Cruise Lines soon.

Popcorn Junkie Mix is a popular flavor option

When inquired about his personal favorite among the myriad of flavors offered by Popcorn Junkie, Neal Crosier responded in a manner that was somewhat anticipated; he expressed the difficulty in selecting just one favorite: "My personal favorite is a tough choice, given our wide range, because each flavor is crafted with goodness and great care." This hesitation is understandable, considering the time and energy developing new flavors must require.

Nonetheless, Crosier was able to shed light on the preference trends among customers. The standout favorite, garnering universal acclaim from those who taste it, is the Popcorn Junkie Mix, affectionately termed the PJ Mix. This blend draws a direct line to the favorite Chicago-style popcorn a la Garret Popcorn, skillfully marrying crispy caramel and cheesy cheddar into a singular flavor that Central Floridians, Chicagoans, and online customers can enjoy, no matter where in the country they may live.

Word of mouth helped bring Disney and Popcorn Junkie together

The partnership between Disney and Popcorn Junkie unfolded in what can only be described as a natural progression. Neal Crosier shares that the collaboration was "inspired by our love for the Disney experience, we aim to bring that joy to Popcorn Junkie customers." This synergy between the two companies emerged from a desire to replicate the magical experiences found within Disney parks, proving that aligning brand values and customer experiences can lead to remarkable partnerships.

Through a series of fortunate word-of-mouth recommendations, Popcorn Junkie caught the attention of the right individuals within Disney. After successfully sending over samples and meeting Disney's vending requirements, a deal was struck to the delight of popcorn aficionados across Walt Disney World. This partnership was ultimately made possible by shared values and quality; it demonstrates how organic connections can lead to significant opportunities, enriching the experiences of visitors and customers alike.

Iced tea is a delicious drink paired with sweet popcorn

Whether enjoying popcorn at the movie theater, meandering through a theme park, or simply lounging at home, you might wonder about the optimal beverage pairing to elevate your snacking experience. Neal Crosier suggests starting with water, as the "neutrality of water won't overshadow the flavors."

For those enjoying sweet popcorn varieties, Crosier advises opting for beverages with a hint of sweetness to complement the snack. He recommends fruit-infused waters or iced tea as ideal companions, mentioning that a splash of lemon can further enhance the taste profile. For a unique twist, he suggests trying ginger ale or lemon-lime soda, which can add an interesting dimension to the popcorn experience. For beer enthusiasts, Crosier's advice leans towards selecting a lighter beer. A light beer can augment the popcorn's flavors without overwhelming them, in contrast to a heavier, darker stout, which might overshadow the delicate balance of taste.