I think about this every time we go to the movie theater or out to an event where my daughter would be completely tempted by the yummy aroma of popcorn: Will the popcorn be gluten-free? Let’s face it– popcorn is one of those simple (read: gluten-free) snacks that can easily be made complicated (read: gluten-filled) by an additive to the oil or seasoning. But it doesn’t have to be that tough right?
Recently on The Savvy Celiac Facebook Page, we asked about whether people go out and have movie theater popcorn or popcorn at a sporting event or somewhere else you could get it. Respondents had serious concerns about cross contamination and general worries about whether it was gluten-free at all.
In full disclosure, I worry about whether the popcorn and it’s cooking ingredients are gluten-free, but I haven’t worried about cross-contamination within the bin of popcorn. Not much else is going in there and the ones I have seen are nearly fully enclosed. So I apologize up front if everyone thinks I’m too liberal here.
So last Wednesday I set out on a mission to inquire with the movie theater companies about their popcorn product.
Movie Theater Gluten-Free Popcorn Survey Results
I targeted the largest movie theater chains: Regal, AMC, Marcus, Carmike, Cinemark, Mann (Minnesota), and Kerasotes. I emailed all except AMC who had the initial question about gluten-free popcorn on their website. Here’s what I found:
Our local AMC Theater has Orville Redenbacher popcorn which is where we go and eat popcorn. They have more than 4,000 screens in more than 300 theaters across the US. I found half of the answer I needed right on their website: AMC confirms the AMC popcorn is gluten free. I asked a question about the “Butter” — I haven’t received an answer.
Regal Entertainment Group has nearly 7,000 screens in about 550 theaters — the largest in the country. They got back to me with a detailed answer: They use plain popcorn seeds, coconut oil and a seasoning salt (“Salt, Certified food color (including FD&C Yellow #5 & #6), imitation butter flavor, Tri-calcium Phosphate added as an anti-caking agent”). The buttery topping (“Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Soy Lechtin, TBHQ & Citric Acid to improve stability, Natural & Artificial Flavors & Colors, Dimethylpolysiloxane (an anti-foaming agent)”). Then Amy the person who answered bottom-lined it for me,
“The popcorn is gluten-free but the buttery topping is not.” — Regal Entertainment Group
Cinemark didn’t declare their popcorn gluten-free one way or another but did send me information on both their popcorn and artificial butter. Download the popcorn information here. The ingredients do say there is no wheat in this product, but as we all know, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s gluten-free. Read up on the “Buttery Topping” here.
Kerasotes got back to me as well saying, “the popping oil, buttery topping and salt we use have been confirmed to be gluten-free. The seeds (Orville Redenbacher) do contain gluten, corn gluten, but not wheat, rye, barley or oat gluten.” FYI, corn gluten is safe to eat on a gluten-free diet.
Mann Theaters in Minnesota couldn’t get back to me right away. Their person in charge will get back to me in a few weeks because he’s out of town.
I’m pretty uncomfortable with the buttery topping (which is usually something you can add on to your popcorn..it doesn’t automatically come with it on), but I’m feeling better about the popcorn itself*, which is the way we eat it anyway.
Okay there are other places to eat popcorn too…namely event centers that have sports, shows, expos and more…
The Metrodome in Minneapolis had no information, but at one time I thought they had ACT II popcorn. But you will have to check upon arrival.
Target Field’s popcorn is gluten free. I did a complete posting and follow up on the goodies at Target Field. However, now that the season has abruptly ended for the Twins, ahem…. We will have to double check this gluten-free listing again in the spring.
Xcel Energy Center also doesn’t post it’s popcorn information online. You’ll have to check that out first hand or call ahead.
Finally, I know popcorn is a hot item at some Target stores across the country. I emailed Target and this was their response about whether their popcorn was gluten-free: “Currently there is no way to guarantee nutritional or allergen information for items produced at the stores because of the potential for cross contamination and the possibility that we would change ingredients for these items.” Safe and easy answer.
Anyway, I will update this post if and when I hear from Marcus and Carmike theaters. Happy popcorn eating!
*Note: As always, the popcorn lists are only as current as this blog post is. It’s always safer to double check with the company to ensure gluten-free status of anything.