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Grocery Stores Go Gourmet with Popcorn, Cotton Candy, and More


For generations people have been enjoying concession foods like popcorn, caramel corn, cotton candy, and fudge only at places such as movie theaters, amusement parks, stadiums, and tourist attractions. Now, there’s a new location to enjoy these fresh and delicious fun foods – the grocery store! It’s true. Grocery stores are harnessing the powerful profit potential and becoming destinations for customers seeking snacking indulgences.

Gold Medal has been a global leader in the concession industry for over 90 years. This rich experience has allowed them to take expert insight and develop a proven system for success within the grocery store setting. Known as the Sweet Shop Setup, Gold Medal’s line of equipment and supplies is a turnkey operation that has been implemented at stores, both large and small, across the country.

For insight into the Sweet Shop Setup concept, we spoke with Gold Medal’s vice president of branch sales and operations, Pete Bakala. 


Q: Start by explaining, what is a Sweet Shop Setup?

A: A Sweet Shop is one of the best ways for grocery stores to earn maximum profitability in underutilized spaces. It is a place where stores can make and sell fresh fun foods. The primary product is gourmet popcorn. It is one of the best grocery store snacks. However, many stores also add cotton candy, fudge, frosted nuts, and caramel and candy apples. From kiosks to full-service sweet shops, the setup is completely customizable. 

Q: Why is fresh popcorn such a good fit for grocery stores?

A:  There are many benefits. Popcorn is one of the most popular and profitable snacks yet requires minimal labor to produce. The low production costs mean profit margins can be as high as 70-80%. A Sweet Shop Setup is a novelty shoppers enjoy. They can see, hear, and smell the popcorn being made and taste samples. It drives in-store traffic and opens many sales opportunities including party trays, bulk packaging, and even gift baskets.


Q: How much space does a store need? And what equipment is recommended?

A: It is completely customizable based on your needs. For a full Sweet Shop Setup, we recommend a 10x10 square foot space, but many do more. Others integrate with their existing bakery or deli operations. There’s a lot of flexibility. Our top equipment for gourmet popcorn includes a 32-oz popper or larger, 10-gallon low-profile cooker mixer, low-profile cooling table, a tumbler, and Main Street Staging Cabinet. Gold Medal can assist with store layout and CAD drawings if needed.

Q: What popcorn flavors are top sellers?

A: It is easy to make multiple flavors and build your own menu based on your customers’ preferences. Some flavors that consistently do well are movie theater popcorn, caramel corn, cheese popcorn, hot cheese corn, caramel and cheese mix, and white popcorn. However, Gold Medal carries a full line of popcorn flavorings that include Corn Treats (caramel corn and other flavors), Signature Shakes® (shake-on seasonings), Signature Blends® (candy glazes), and Glaze Pop® (sweet popcorn). So, you can try flavors ranging from ranch and sweet chili to birthday cake and fruity flavors.

Q: What about labor? Is it easy to make flavored popcorn?

A:  It is incredibly simple to make gourmet popcorn. Gold Medal’s equipment and supplies are made to work together to make the process easy and efficient. It takes away the guesswork. In addition, we have a dedicated grocery specialist. We can do training at your site or at any of our 17 branch locations. Plus, our website has how-to videos, recipes, and other resources to assist you.


Q: How are grocery stores selling popcorn?

A: I like to say, “When you pop, they will shop!” We offer packaging from snack-sized up to jumbo sizes. Stores can make party platters for events. Classic popcorn tins are great for the holiday season. And gift baskets can be made for occasions year-round. I’ve even seen popcorn cakes! The possibilities are endless.

Q: Tell us about the other products grocery stores are selling in Sweet Shops.

A: One of the most popular is candy and caramel apples. Great seasonally or year-round, consumers enjoy the gourmet toppings. Another favorite is cotton candy. It is so easy to make and brings in high profit margins. Fudge is an option that has great appeal, especially for gift-giving. And lastly, frosted or glazed nuts are also a pleasing snack. Gold Medal actually offers a machine, called the Combo Kandy King that can produce caramel corn, fudge, and frosted nuts.

Q: How can someone get started with Gold Medal?

A: You can call us at 800-543-0862 and get connected with a concession specialist. If you prefer to learn more before speaking with someone, visit There are lots of resources to browse. Most of all, I recommend viewing our page devoted to the grocery industry: