Maine-based Little Lad’s is expanding its popcorn sales nationwide and has acquired a 10,000-square-foot production space in Brattleboro, Vermont, where it expects to start popping kernels and shipping cases of its popcorn any day now.

“The facility is almost ready to operate,” said Little Lad’s owner Maria Fleming, who founded the business 28 years ago in Woolwich before moving it to Corinth, a rural town north of Bangor. “They’re just waiting on a few little glitches that need to be fixed.”

The first shipments to leave Brattleboro will go to retailers and distributors in New England. Eventually, Little Lad’s plans to expand throughout the Northeast and Midwest. Little Lad’s popcorn – particularly its signature Herbal Corn – is a longtime favorite of Mainers and visitors alike. Although the company says demand exists outside the state, mailing popcorn is cost-prohibitive, and its existing manufacturing space lacks the capacity to expand its distribution. The Brattleboro operation is intended to fill the gap between demand and supply.

Little Lad’s is taking the brand national. But the packaging will change, to help the popcorn stay fresh longer. Photo by Avery Yale Kamila

The Brattleboro space can accommodate the new popcorn machine, which is much too large to fit in the 100-year-old Corinth building, a former village store. This new machine can crank out 2,000 pounds of popcorn in under five hours. It’d take the Corinth facility about a week to produce the same volume. Also, the Brattleboro location is near I-91, which provides a direct connection to New York City.

According to market research firm IRI, the ready-to-eat popcorn market is growing. Last year, the firm reported sales in that category increased 12 percent, reaching total sales of $1.8 billion. The industry leaders are SmartFoods (owned by Frito-Lay), SkinnyPop and Boom Chicka Pop, but there are many smaller regional brands and health food brands as well; that last category is where Little Lad’s will be competing for shelf space. Little Lad’s has already cleared one major retail hurdle by getting its popcorn on the shelves of some Whole Foods supermarkets in New England.

The production facility on Main Street in Corinth, near the Little Lad’s Cafe, will continue to supply Maine retailers and other local buyers with popcorn. It also will continue to sell more than 100 other plant-based products, including whole-grain breads, veggie burgers, savory hand pies, whole wheat crackers, almond butter, granola, waffles, ice cream, toaster cookies, fruit tarts and pies. The Brattleboro facility will only produce popcorn.


Fleming’s son, Orion Fleming, and his business partner Arthur Mulyono located the Brattleboro production plant, known as Little Lad’s NE (for New England), and will run the national operation. The pair refurbished much of the space themselves.

The out-of-state popcorn will have different packaging than the Maine popcorn, which is sold in clear bags. Because the clear bags allow in light, the popcorn has a shorter shelf life. This is not a problem in Maine, where it is popped fresh and sent to stores with steady demand from shoppers. But for national distribution, Little Lad’s NE needed the popcorn to have a longer shelf life.

“The new packaging allows us to block the UV light thus helping with shelf life in the stores,” Mulyono said. “It only takes ambient lighting in the stores to degrade the popcorn.”

The new bag is printed with an eye-catching design in four colors for the four popcorn flavors (herbal, buttah, garlic buttah, and sea salt & olive oil).  In Brattleboro, the popcorn will be popped in sunflower oil; the Corinth facility uses soybean oil. Other than that, the recipes are identical.

Meanwhile in Corinth, the production facility is fully staffed and its newest products – the savory hand pies and the bottles of Herbal Corn seasoning – are selling well. “But we are very hesitant to introduce any more products because we don’t have more space,” Fleming said.

The Little Lad’s Cafe, located at 317 Main St., is open every day except Saturdays serving sandwiches, soups, salads, desserts, ice cream and popcorn. The store also sells freshly baked bread and other products from the Corinth production facility, which is just up the street. The restaurant normally sees a big bump in business during the tourist season, though Fleming said the cafe has also been busy this past winter.

“Our growth so far this year has been double what we were doing last winter,” she said. “Some customers drive from as far as Scarborough and Camden to have lunch regularly.”

Soon, Little Lad’s fans from outside of Maine won’t have to drive far at all. Herbal Corn will soon be on its way to a store near them.

Avery Yale Kamila is a food writer who lives in Portland. She can be reached at

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