How Much Air Is In Your Popcorn?

Popcorn is a much-loved snack in the UK and in 2016 a study revealed sales had soared by 169% within 5 years (source). Throughout these years, consumers have witnessed an increase in flavours and brands on our supermarket shelves.

Similarly to crisps, the public knows when we grab a bag of our beloved treat, we are often met with disappointment with the reality of how much popcorn the packaging actually contains.

The air in food packaging is essential for retaining freshness and to provide cushioning in transit to ensure your popcorn reaches you intact. However, some brands appear to use a considerable more amount of air than others. Brands should always ensure you run it through a robust compressed air quality testing process before packaging. 

The lack of consistency makes it almost impossible for consumers to determine exactly what they are paying for and if they are getting value for money.

At Direct Air, we took the most popular highstreet brands and flavours of popcorn and worked out the ‘air-to-popcorn’ ratio so you can see precisely how much pop you get for your pound.

The worst contender was Proper Corn Peanut Butter and Almond with an astonishing 71% of air. Right at the top for most popcorn was M&S Salted Caramel with a highly respectable 31% air contents.


Tested Packs of Popcorn

We decided to test at least 2 flavours of each brand to see whether this made any difference. It wasn’t possible to get the same weight for each bag, so we gave the price for 100g.

Popcorn Weight Price (100g)
Nude – Simply Salted 65g £1.92
Nude – Simply Sweet & Salty 80g £1.56
Propercorn – Peanut Butter & Almond 90g £1.78
Propercorn – Sweet 90g £1.78
M&S – Salted Caramel Popcorn 175g £1.25
M&S – Salted Popcorn 65g £1.54
Butterkist – Toffee 170g £1.00
Butterkist – Sweet 100g £1.70
Waitrose – Sweet & Salty 90g £1.11
Waitrose – Sea Salt 90g £1.43
Tesco – Salted 85g £1.24
Tesco – Sweet & Salted 110g £0.96
Tyrrells – Sweet 90g £1.94
Tyrells – Salted 70g £2.50
Metcalfe’s – Toffee Apple 80g £2.25
Metcalfe’s – Sweet & Salt 80g £1.25



We tested the percentage of air in each pack by using the water displacement method. As we were testing share-bags, a typical measuring beaker wouldn’t quite cut it. With this in mind, we used a 25L measuring bucket and ensured that each bag was measured with the same water mark.

We submerged the pack and measured the rise in water level. We then emptied the contents of the popcorn into a plastic bag and vacuum sealed it. The water level was checked to ensure that it was the same and then the vacuum sealed bag was then submerged. The rise in water level was then noted and a percentage worked out to identify how much of the bag was popcorn, and how much was air.

The Results

The results showed that the average bag of popcorn was 54% air. This means that 86p of every £1.58 spent on a bag of popcorn is being spent on air.

The bag with the least amount of air was the M&S Salted Caramel which was just 30.77% air, whereas the bag with the most at 71.43% was the Peanut Butter & Almond bag of Propercorn. Both Nude flavours came in at 2nd and 3rd worst, both being 62% air.

If we look at cost, comparatively speaking, the highest price you’d pay for air is Tyrells Salted flavour. A whopping £1.38 of the £2.50 you’d pay for a 100g bag will be for the nitrogen found in the bag. If you’re thinking of indulging in the seasonal Toffee Apple flavour, you’ll find yourself spending £1.24 of the £2.25 you’d pay for a 100g bag. That’s just under double you’d pay for their standard Sweet & Salty flavour.