What Percentage of Popcorn is Actually in Its Bag?

We all love snacking and more of us are turning to lower-calorie alternatives to help lead a healthier lifestyle. Popcorn is one of the most popular alternatives to the traditional packet of crisps. But are consumers actually getting their money’s worth? 

All air packaged snacks are filled with air (or more specifically nitrogen) to protect the product and keep the contents fresh. These all follow the stringent ISO 8573 testing to ensure the right quality of air enters our popcorn. However, there is no regulation as to how much is pumped into our popcorn bags.

Consumers are left feeling short-changed by the actual quantity of product within their purchase and feel duped by the misleading packaging sizes. A study has revealed how much we are paying for excess air. Full details of Direct Air’s study can be seen here. The popcorn market is estimated to reach $15,098 globally by 2023, so it is more crucial than ever for consumers to know what they are really paying for.

16 of the UK’s top brands and flavours were put to the test to provide an insight into how much popcorn we actually receive in our snacks and which brands are filling their products with excess air unnecessarily.

The Results 

One of the leading brands, Proper Corn has been revealed as the worst culprit, in their popular peanut butter & almond flavour, 71% of the bag was filled with air. Marks & Spencer’s salted caramel provides the best value for money, with a respectable 31%.

The full results were as follows:

Brand & Flavour Price Per 100g (£) % of Air in Bag
Proper Corn: Peanut Butter & Almond 1.60 71
Nude: Sweet & Salty 1.56 62
Nude: Simply Salted 1.92 62
Tyrrell’s: Sweet 1.94 57
Metcalfe’s: Toffee Apple 2.25 55
Tyrrell’s: Sea Salted 2.50 55
Tesco: Salted 1.24 55
Marks & Spencer: Salted 1.54 55
Metcalfe’s: Sweet ‘n’ Salt 1.25 54
Proper Corn: Perfectly Sweet 1.78 54
Waitrose: Sea Salty 1.43 53
Waitrose: Sweet & Salty 1.11 53
Tesco: Sweet & Salty 0.96 52
Butterkist: Cinema Sweet 1.70 48
Butterkist: Toffee 1.00 44
Marks & Spencer: Salted Caramel 0.57 31


After comparing all 16 bags, the average amount of air in each bag resulted in a whopping 54%. This means that for every £1.59 consumers are spending on popcorn, 86p of that is being spent on air and not snacks!

Why Are These Results Important?

The most obvious reason as to why these results are so shocking is that purchasers are feeling conned out of their hard-earned money and potentially left hungry. Manufacturers are arguing the necessity of this added air for product quality.

However, why are some brands able to achieve quality with such little air while others are insisting on using twice as much? The answer really isn’t clear.

Another reason as to why excessive air filling in packaging is a negative thing is the large excess of plastic waste. ‘Pillow packs’ are the commonly used packaging in popcorn, crisps, nuts and other similar products.

These are typically non-recyclable and single-use plastic, something that the whole nation is aware of the negative environmental impacts. The more air pumped into this packaging, the more wasteful plastic is used and destined for landfills.  

Mark’s & SPencer’s ‘Plastics Plan’ is one of the brands who are making an active change to packaging by finding plastic alternatives and reducing its use wherever possible.

This is already reflected in the great results of the study and it looks like they are sticking to their word, but it appears that other brands are not yet adhering to the pressure.

Many of us have already seen the demand from consumers in the crisp industry, but the growing popularity of popcorn means that these manufacturers are generating just as much single-use plastic waste. The spotlight needs to be thrown on them as well!

Pillow packaging is estimated to take up to eight decades to degrade and although many packaging providers are working in biodegradable or fully-recyclable packaging, it may be many years until this is implemented. 

Next time you are browsing the snack aisle, stop and have a think about the packaging your favourite popcorn is in. Whether you are looking to get the most for your money, are trying to make eco-conscious choices or both, think about the above results to make the correct decision. 

Although we wish it would be sooner, it will take many more years for single-use plastics to be completely removed from our shelves. But with the right pressure on manufacturers and shoppers making decisions based on brands’  conscious efforts, the worst culprit will be forced to make changes as soon as possible.