Indian-spiced popcorn? Yes, please! At the Portland Indian Bridal Showcase, I had the opportunity to meet Neha Patel, the owner of Masala Pop. Neha grew up eating her mom’s savory blend of popcorn, spiced in the tradition found in her native India. She started experimenting with her own blend of spices and flavors to create a one-of-a-kind snack with a spicy kick. After 15 years as a sustainability professional, Neha decided to pursue her dream of starting a specialty food business. She quickly turned her “hobby” into a retail shop and manufacturing space for Masala Pop to supply farmers market, co-ops, movie theaters, specialty grocery and more. The enthusiasm from customers inspires her to continue to create new and exciting flavors and products.
With flavors like Chai Masala with Oregon Hazelnuts and Savory Masala with Papadams, Masala Pop's products are hand blended. I recently interviewed Neha (after inquiring about the limited-edition Saffron Rose with Pistachios - yum!) to learn more about her venture and traditions:
What was the inspiration for Masala Pop?
The inspiration for Masala Pop began with my mom. When I was growing up, she spiced up popcorn similar to the way Popcorn Walahs did in her native India. Recently I began playing with her recipe as well as creating my own. Friends and family started placing orders, and the feedback I received was overwhelmingly positive. The idea to start a popcorn company was born.
How did you select your flavors? Are any of them inspired by specific destinations/regions in India?
My mom’s original Savory Masala contains a blend of spices that are commonly used in the Indian state of Gujarat where my family is from. My mother’s style of Indian cooking definitely has inspired me in creating the other flavors, and I also like to experiment with spice blends and ingredients that unique to India such as Garam Masala, Tamarind, and traditional Chai spices and Papadums, a chip made out of lentils. I like to take the flavors from some of my favorite Indian dishes, and translate that into a popcorn flavor. The exotic flavors of Indian food seem almost limitless, and I think popcorn is the perfect vehicle for showcasing them! Our newest flavor is Saffron Rose, flavors commonly found in Indian sweets, and we are currently experimenting with Mint Chutney.
I understand you are going to be on the shelves of New Seasons very soon?
Yes, we will start in most stores at the beginning of April. We had a lot of dedicated fans requesting our product at their local stores and it finally paid off. We are really excited about this exposure to the entire Portland Metro area. Look for us to be doing a lot of in-store demos!
What have you found to be the biggest surprise during the launch and expansion of Masala Pop?
The biggest surprise is the difficulty involved in the balance between using quality products vs. keeping the cost of the product down. We are committed to using real and natural ingredients as well as using sustainable packaging that doesn’t compromise the freshness and quality of the popcorn. With all of this, is our desire to keep the price point accessible to every consumer. I have a new appreciation of all that goes into this delicate balance.
Besides being a delicious, organic, gluten-free, non-gmo snack, what else do you believe contributes to the success of your product?
First, I think it’s because it is so unique, it is unlike anything people have ever tasted before. Second, our team is really invested in the every step of the product; from packaging design to sourcing local and real ingredients, to recipe tweaking. I think the attention that goes into the small-batch production really shines through in our product.