his local man started with a small popcorn store in a local mall.
Today, Bill Speicher’s ready-to-eat popcorn wholesale business is all puffed up.
Each week, nine part-time employees cook up 600 cases of the snack. Most of the crunchy confection — in a variety of flavors — ends up at stores big and small.
“Our business has just grown like crazy,” said Speicher, co-owner of the Wadsworth popcorn and candy enterprise, dubbed American Classic Snack Co.
“We’re up from about 40 cases a week just about two years ago.”
A case is typically 12 popcorn bags weighing 8.5 ounces.
This year, Speicher noted, the company landed its biggest account, striking a deal that will put the popcorn on the shelves of 160 Kroger grocery stores in the Columbus area. (Kroger, headquartered in Cincinnati, pulled out of the Northeast Ohio market in the 1980s.)
Speicher is part of a popcorn boom.
Shops are popping up in lots of places, and food marketer Sterling-Rice Group late last year listed popcorn — savory or sweet — as “THE snack of 2013” and the No. 10 food trend for the year.
Sterling-Rice, headquartered in Colorado, said more than 100 chefs, restaurateurs and “foodies” helped to compile its food trends forecast.
Speicher’s more popular flavors range from the traditional, such as Ballpark Crunch (caramel and peanuts) to the more adventurous, including FiveFlavor (cherry, grape, green apple, raspberry and banana).
A recent addition is Camo Crunch (pistachio, caramel, vanilla butter and black cherry). Camo refers to the camouflage look of the treat.
Bags sell for $3.99 to $4.99, depending on the location .
Locally, Speicher’s popcorn is available at Buehler’s grocery stores and other retailers, including Carolyn’s Cupboard specialty foods and gift store in downtown Wadsworth.
Carolyn’s Cupboard owner Carolyn McCullick was one of Speicher’s early buyers, and has been selling various flavors of his popcorn for a dozen years.
“A lot of people look at the label,” McCullick said, “and they see it’s made in Wadsworth and they say, ‘Oh that’s local. That helps sell it.’ ”
Carolyn’s Cupboard also sells Speicher’s chocolate turtles and chocolate and peanut butter Buckeyes. The Buckeye recipe is that of Speicher’s mother, Hazel Speicher, who works part-time making candy at American Classic Snack, housed in a portion of a building on Grandview Avenue in Wadsworth.
American Classic employs about 15, with most employees working part-time. About six of the workers make candy and bag the products. Speicher’s son, Eric, runs the plant and works full time.
Speicher’s popcorn/candy venture got a big boost in late 2011. That’s when local resident Bob Walker invested in the company, becoming a co-owner and bringing experience in food sales.
He’s owner of Walker Food Group, a broker who gets placement on store shelves and specializes in Ohio products.
Walker handles sales, while Speicher oversees popcorn production.
“I like creating flavors, that’s my thing, Speicher said.
He touts the use of Ohio-made butter and other products in American Classic Snack’s flavored popcorn.
Began at Rolling Acres
Speicher’s popcorn path began when he bought the Kopper Popper popcorn store at the former Rolling Acres mall in Akron in the mid-1990s. At the time, he was a salesman for a company supplying building maintenance products and wanted to spend less time on the road.
After several years, Speicher said, “The mall was dying, so I thought, ‘I think I’ve got some good things going here. We can just wholesale this and not worry about the retail side of it.’ ”
By 2000, he had begun Keric Korn & Candy, named for his children Keri, now 17, and Eric, now 22. The business was renamed American Classic Snack when Walker came on board.
Speicher, who lives in Wadsworth, said the business isn’t big enough yet to give up another job he’s had for several years — that of facilities manager at his church, the Wadsworth campus of The Chapel.
He says he manages everything “with deep breathing and trusting in God it will all work out.”
Katie Byard can be reached at 330-996-3781 or firstname.lastname@example.org.