BY ROSIE PIGA PIZZO
As you drive east on Atwater Avenue, it is difficult not to notice the colorful Inga’s Popcorn sign on an otherwise plain, beige-colored house. Inside, you will find anything-but-plain popcorn treats created by Inga Smith and inspired by family recipes.
A resident of Zionsville, Indiana, Smith, 53, began selling her popcorn creations at the Zionsville Farmers’ Market in 2011. Demand increased, so in January 2012 she opened a shop in Bloomington, where she grew up and attended Indiana University. “The space had not been in use for 20 years,” she says of the building at 1503 E. Atwater Ave. The next year, she opened a second store in Zionsville.
Inga’s uses only certified-organic Indiana popcorn. “I used a different type of popcorn when I first started, but once I discovered organic, then that was it,” Smith says. Depending on the recipe, the popcorn is popped in either coconut or canola oil, then mixed with other ingredients to create Inga’s signature flavors. The ingredients in Inga’s Snickerdoodle popcorn, which tastes like the cookie, shows that a sweet treat can be simple: organic popcorn, brown sugar, butter, corn syrup, coconut oil, cinnamon, salt, and vanilla.
At any given time, Inga’s has both year-round and seasonal selections. “We typically have about 20 flavors throughout the year,” Smith says. The number-one best-seller is Sweet ’N Cheesy, which combines Classic Caramel (the number-two best-seller on its own) and Classic Cheddar Cheese. Coming in third is Snowstorm: Classic Caramel drizzled with dark chocolate and white icing. “People ask about Snowstorm all year, but I don’t start it until October,” she says. Other fall favorites include Pumpkin Pie Spice and Peanut Butter Crunch. Inga’s latest autumn creation is Caramel Bacon with dark chocolate.
All of Inga’s Popcorn is prepared and packaged in the stores, and much of it is gluten-free. “We do everything by hand,” Smith says. “We cook in small batches — five gallons at a time. It’s all hand-sorted; that’s why it’s a little more expensive.” Quart bags of popcorn start at $7. Inga’s Popcorn is also sold at Lucky’s Market and at IU home football games.