Gourmet popcorn startup Maddy & Maize has landed a partnership with Edible Arrangements, an Atlanta-based international franchise company specializing in edible bouquets and gifts. The Minneapolis-based brand is now the sole popcorn provider for Edible Arrangements’ more than 1,200 U.S. locations.
The partnership provides a huge boost in exposure and requires a major ramp up in manufacturing, for the small company Brett Striker founded in 2014. An IT salesman at the time, he noticed his friends adding ingredients like peanut M&M’s and pretzels to their popcorn. He had an idea: open a popcorn store, much like the frozen yogurt model, where people could add all kinds of ingredients to popcorn.
While he eventually decided that such a niche store wasn’t the greatest business plan, he didn’t give up on the popcorn itself. In the early days of development, Striker spent many late nights and early morning experimenting with popcorn in his apartment kitchen. He knew so little, he says, that he once even tried to make cheese powder just by dehydrating cheese.
“That went on for a year and a half,” Striker says, laughing. “My parents were my guinea pigs, and it was just bad.” He hired a food scientist to help him, and by 2015, Maddy & Maize popcorn moved out of Striker’s kitchen and into a small commercial kitchen in St. Paul. Striker took his product to a Linden Hills farmer’s market in August 2016. Within the first couple weeks of being there, Maddy & Maize was selling out of all its flavors, from Birthday Cake, its most popular, to Dark Chocolate Caramel.
Striker had a taste of working with a national brand in 2017 when Target selected Maddy & Maize to participate in the retailer’s Shop Local eight-week pilot program at the Nicollet Mall store. The success of that program then led to Maddy & Maize popcorn temporarily hitting the shelves of 200 Targets stores nationwide. “It went really well,” Striker says. “Hopefully we’ll get another chance at that again.”
But for now, Striker is focused on his newest partnership with Edible Arrangements, which began in December. The companies connected at a food show, and eight months ago, Edible Arrangements expressed interest in carrying Maddy & Maize products.
“As a franchisor, Edible is a part of the small business community, so we’re always looking for ways to partner and support other small businesses,” says Edible Arrangements president and chief operating officer Cheikh Mboup. “After trying Maddy & Maize popcorn, we knew this was a product not only our customers would love, but something our franchise partners would enjoy having in their stores. Being able to extend our product offerings to now include popcorn as a result of this partnership lets us cater to those who aren’t just looking for an arrangement, but something to indulge in.”
To meet the increased demand, Striker recently moved production to a manufacturing facility just outside of the Twin Cities. He’s scaled up to a full-time staff of six.
“Edible Arrangements is a massive account, so we want to be sure that we are careful not to take on too much too soon,” Striker says. “Luckily, they are a great partner, and we are working together to scale at a rate that is both reasonable and allows us to keep the integrity of our product.”
Luckily too, Striker says, Maddy & Maize has been relatively unaffected by the coronavirus pandemic. The popcorn brand offers direct delivery. Edible Arrangements is also able to deliver during stay-at-home orders, and continues to ramp up the partnership. Maddy & Maize is featured prominently in Edible Arrangements commercials airing frequently on CNN and other national broadcasts, Striker says. Over the next two weeks, Edible Arrangements will roll out its Mother’s Day marketing campaign, which features Maddy & Maize’s Raspberry Lemonade popcorn, followed by Bourbon Barbecue for Father’s Day.