Rob and Renee Israel opened Doc Popcorn 10 years ago, first as a store that sold naturally-flavored popcorn and later began offering franchises of the concept store. Jonathan Castner / for BizWest

Doc Popcorn’s prescription: Buy a snack and smile

BOULDER — Sometimes, great ideas just pop into your head.

For Rob and Renee Israel, that idea happened 10 years ago, in their New York City apartment. That’s when they started popping and blending naturally flavored popcorn.

“There’s movie theater popcorn, and then there’s heavily candied popcorn,” said Rob Israel. “We wanted to find something in the middle that was healthy and delicious, and tied into our values.”

That kernel of a concept became Doc Popcorn, first a store and then franchises.

The franchise business has been very good. Doc Popcorn has increased annual revenue 602 percent from $1 million in 2010 to $7.2 million in 2012, placing it No. 2 on the Boulder County Business Report’s Mercury 100 list of fastest-growing companies in Boulder and Broomfield counties for companies reporting more than $2 million in annual revenue.

All this growth was happening at the height of a challenged economy.

The Israels moved to Boulder, “the natural foodie capital of the world,” and set up shop. In December 2003, they opened their first PopShop in FlatIron Crossing mall in Broomfield. The couple now operates PopShops at the Pepsi Center in addition to the flagship store at FlatIron through Doc Popcorn.

In 2009, Rob and Renee started selling Doc Popcorn franchises. Today, there are 77 PopShops in malls, stadiums, theme parks and convention centers throughout the country. And more are popping up.

“It’s hard to keep the numbers straight,” Rob said. “It’s such a moving target. We’re opening new stores every day.”

“We make people smile,” Rob said. “In life and in business, if you can create smiles you can create success.”

That’s the simple answer. The more complex answer was in examining other successful food commodity businesses and understanding what the standouts did to, well, stand out.

“Look at burgers, coffee and pretzels,” Rob said. “All of these products have been done forever. But someone came around and said, ‘We’re going to do it differently. We’re going to brand it beautifully; the product is going to be better than the majority in the marketplace. We’re going to do it with a smile. We’re going to do it efficiently. We’re going to do it in some special way.

“Look what happened with McDonald’s and all the other burger companies that are now giants. Look what happened to Starbuck’s.”

Coffee shops and burger joints can be found in every food court in every mall, but popcorn? Not so much. The Israels are bringing a much loved and well-known snack to high-traffic areas where just the smell of it brings customers to the counter.

And that makes Rob and Renee smile.

BOULDER — Sometimes, great ideas just pop into your head.

For Rob and Renee Israel, that idea happened 10 years ago, in their New York City apartment. That’s when they started popping and blending naturally flavored popcorn.

“There’s movie theater popcorn, and then there’s heavily candied popcorn,” said Rob Israel. “We wanted to find something in the middle that was healthy and delicious, and tied into our values.”

That kernel of a concept became Doc Popcorn, first a store and then franchises.

The franchise business has been very good. Doc Popcorn has increased annual revenue 602 percent from $1 million in 2010 to $7.2 million in 2012, placing it No. 2 on the Boulder County Business Report’s Mercury 100 list of fastest-growing companies in Boulder and Broomfield counties for companies reporting more than $2 million in annual revenue.

All this growth was happening at the height of a challenged economy.

The Israels moved to Boulder, “the natural foodie capital of the world,” and set up shop. In December 2003, they opened their first PopShop in FlatIron Crossing mall in Broomfield. The couple now operates PopShops at the Pepsi Center in addition to the flagship store at FlatIron through Doc Popcorn.

In 2009, Rob and Renee started selling Doc Popcorn franchises. Today, there are 77 PopShops in malls, stadiums, theme parks and convention centers throughout the country. And more are popping up.

“It’s hard to keep the numbers straight,” Rob said. “It’s such a moving target. We’re opening new stores every day.”

“We make people smile,” Rob said. “In life…