Concession Industry 101: Helpful Definitions for Beginners
Glossary of Concession Industry Terms
If you’re new to the fun foods industry and suddenly find yourself in charge of ordering and running a concession stand fundraiser for a school or nonprofit organization, things can be a little overwhelming. Not only do you have to understand who your customers are, how your machines work, and what concession items are best for you to sell, you may also come across several terms that are unfamiliar.
Here are definitions for some common concession food and equipment terms to help make your work easier.
Butterfly ears: Broken pieces of butterfly popcorn often caused by using too much force to scoop the corn. Broken corn loses visual appeal and creates waste, so it’s best to take care when scooping out servings.
Butterfly popcorn: Type of popcorn traditionally used for movie theater popcorn and other buttery corn or kettle corn. When popped, it bursts into a delicate shape with many protruding “wings.” This popcorn cannot withstand the force needed to coat popcorn with heavier candy flavors, and so is not typically used for caramel or cheese corn.
Cooker mixer: Concession equipment used in the making of caramel corn and other candy-coated popcorn. Mushroom popcorn is popped normally in a popcorn machine and then transferred to the cooker mixer with ingredients such as Corn Treats, sugar, and water. Candy and caramel corn made with a cooker mixer will result in a heavy, crunchy coating of flavor.
Corn deck: The part of a popcorn machine where popcorn lands after the kettle is dumped. Many corn decks have a heating element to act as a warmer, and most also come with perforations to send unpopped kernels down to a tray for disposal.
Corn Treat: A candy coating applied to popcorn after popping. Corn is popped normally in a popcorn machine and then transferred to a cooker mixer containing the Corn Treat mix and other ingredients, where it is thoroughly coated. Corn Treat mixes are normally used with mushroom popcorn to prevent breakage.
Flavacol®: The secret ingredient in movie theater popcorn. Flavacol® is manufactured exclusively by Gold Medal and is a fine-flaked salt with less sodium than crystal salts. Flavacol® is actually what provides the delicious buttery flavor of movie theater popcorn – not butter itself! Add it to the kettle with corn and oil for irresistible results.
Flossugar: Pre-mixed sugar, flavoring, and coloring to make the perfect cotton candy. Flossugar is poured into the floss pan of a cotton candy machine, where it is heated and spun into the fluffy treat customers love.
Fudge puppy: A tasty sweet treat made of waffle mix. Mix is poured into a waffle dog baker, then dipped in chocolate and topped with a variety of options such as sprinkles or crushed nuts.
Glaze Pop®: A flavoring used during the popping process. Gold Medal’s Glaze Pop® is added to the kettle along with corn and oil for a sweet popcorn in a variety of flavors like Blue Raspberry, Chocolate, and Red Cinnamon. It’s normally used with butterfly popcorn and provides a lighter coating than traditional caramel corn.
Kettle corn: Type of sweet and salty popcorn cooked in a large kettle over a flame or burner or popped in a popcorn machine. Kettle corn is usually made with butterfly popcorn, and the sugar/salt mix is added prior to popping.
Mushroom popcorn: Round ball-shaped type of popcorn that is stronger than butterfly popcorn and able to withstand harsher conditions. Mushroom popcorn is typically used for caramel and candy-coated corn as well as cheese corn since it holds up well during agitation in a cooker mixer or tumbler.
Old maids: Term used for unpopped popcorn kernels left after popping a batch of corn. These kernels do not have enough water content to create steam for popping. The higher the quality of corn, the fewer unpopped kernels will be left.
Ribbon heat element: In cotton candy machines. Ribbon heat elements are very adaptive to temperature adjustments and give more flexibility to the end user. Similar to cooking on a gas range, ribbon heat elements allow for incremental temperature changes and more control. However, they can be more easily damaged than a tubular heat element.
Shave ice: A frozen treat not to be confused with a snow cone. Shave ice is created with an ice shaver for a fine, snow-like texture (unlike the crushed ice of a snow cone) and is then flavored with syrups and sometimes other toppings like condensed milk. Although made with shaved ice, the preferred term in the concessions industry is “shave ice” without the “d.”
Tubular heat element: In cotton candy machines. Tubular heat elements increase and decrease heat more gradually than ribbon heat elements. They’re similar to cooking on an electric range. They offer less control to the end user, but they’re more durable and require less maintenance, so they’re ideal for use with fundraisers or rental companies, where multiple users will be operating the machine.
Tumbler: Concession equipment used in the making of cheese corn. Mushroom popcorn is popped in a popcorn machine and then transferred to a tumbler. Add cheese paste and tumble to coat.
Now that you understand the basic terminology, find more resources to make your concession stand a success.