Pirate’s Booty Founder Explains His New ‘Sexy’ Popcorn That Doubles as Edible Skin Care

He tells us all about offending moms and the Amish with his new snack-for-your-skin, SexyPop.
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He tells us all about offending moms and the Amish with his new snack-for-your-skin, SexyPop.
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When it comes to healthy skin, everyone knows that what you put in your face counts as much--or more--as what you put on your face. Superfoods like avocado and pomegranate will make you glow, sugar and salt-filled junk foods will not, etc, etc.

But Robert Ehrlich, the mastermind behind Pirate’s Booty and the less-delicious, neon green Veggie Booty (aka the official snack food of New York City children) wants you to be able to snack on something other than a handful of raw almonds and still get radiant skin: Meet his newest creation, SexyPop.

I knew Ehrlich was going to be a fun guy to interview, because when I called his company’s headquarters I was greeted by a recording of someone doing a full-on, “Aye, matey!” pirate voice directing me to enter my party’s extension at any time. I was not disappointed.

Ehrlich started out enthusiastically telling me that he's been a pioneer in the "functional snack category," having launched such munchies as Ginkgo Rings, Power Puffs with Ginger, and St. John's Wort Tortilla Chips in the 1990s. None of these really took off, but Ehrlich has since made his fortune with the healthier, non-orange Cheetos substitute, Pirate's Booty, which, if you've never tasted it, is addictive.

SexyPop, which he just introduced at a trade show a few weeks ago, is his latest snack aisle offering. The line includes six flavors like Avocado and Seaweed (which is the one specifically touted for "healthy skin"), Bangin' Cheddar, Black Pepper, Brazilian Coconut, and more standard butter and salted varieties.

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Ehrlich is not content to offer a snack that is just a snack. "There was a huge interest in England and France for edible cosmetics. I’ve been working on this for a while," Ehrlich said. "Popcorn is a natural antioxidant. It actually has more antioxidants than broccoli!"

If you've been down the snack aisle lately, you've probably noticed that there are a lot of fancy new popcorn varieties and flavors. Ehrlich uses a variety called Japanese popcorn, which has less hull and a more melt-in-your-mouth texture. The flavors, like the aforementioned Avocado and Seaweed, are unique. He's friends with the Vita Coco guys, and struck up a deal with them to use the coconut by-product for the Brazilian Coconut flavor. "The coconut has electrolytes in there and other antioxidants. I think it’s a natural for popcorn, but no one’s ever done that," Ehrlich said. Some of the other varieties contain added vitamins.

All the SexyPop varieties have a bonus side effect, too. "It’s good for your, uh, 'movement' if you will," Ehrlich said. "It’s good for your intestines because the fiber content is fantastic." (Maybe it should be called "SexyPoop" instead?)

Speaking of sexy, Ehrlich is really proud of the product name. Apparently some Amish women in a factory in Pennsylvania refused to work with the company because of it. Ehrlich also received some irate emails from moms, asking him how he could put the word "sexy" on snack food packaging because kids will see it. This actually played out in my home last night when I was trying the Bangin' Cheddar flavor. My eight-year-old saw it and the first thing he asked me was, "Mom, will that popcorn make you sexy?" (And yes, he understands the word "sexy." Thanks a lot, LMFAO.)

"People want to say ‘sexy’ just like they wanted to say 'booty,'" Ehrlich said. "I give them license to say, 'Go get me SexyPop.' It’s very hard for people to look at this word and even say it. Like SmartFood, Smart Water, the word 'smart' was in all of these products--sexy is the new smart."

Ehrlich also received a fair amount of criticism in the '90s for his supplement-filled snack foods. In one particularly funny AP article, a psychiatrist dismissed the product saying, "It would be like having penicillin pie." Products that position themselves as healthy, like Vitamin Water, have come under fire for making false, misleading claims. But Ehrlich isn't worried. "Success always breeds criticism," he scoffed.

So how does it taste, health-claims aside? Pretty damn good. The only flavor I was able to try was the cheddar, and while it comes nowhere near the decadence of a greasy bag of Garrett's cheddar popcorn (my favorite Chicago snack), it had a flavor reminiscent of Pirate's Booty, except with a more satisfying crunch. There are only 75 calories in a snack bag.

And for the record, no, I don't think it will do anything for your skin. But that doesn't matter. Just holding the bag may be enough.

"You’re guaranteed to be sexy if you hold the bag," Ehrlich told me. Wait, you guarantee it? "Yes, if you hold the bag you will be sexy," he said. "People ask me, what makes it sexy? And I say,'You.'”