City Lifestyle

Want to start a publication?

Learn More

Featured Article

Popping with Flavor

Colorado Kernels: Forty Handcrafted Flavors of Popcorn

Meet Jannelle Allen, the “Popcorn Queen of Colorado.” 

“I’m trying to build my little kingdom,” she said with a wink.

That kingdom? It’s the stuff dreams are made of. Stepping into the Colorado Kernels shop is stepping into a rainbow that smells like grandma’s kitchen.

At the moment, they have about 40 handcrafted flavors, including longtime fan favorite Chocolate Avalanche. Allen and the Colorado Kernels chef are constantly dreaming up fresh new flavors like the new Penny’s Lemon Meringue Pie, an homage to Allen’s mom, who makes “wonderful lemon meringue pies.” Not your thing? Try Birthday Cake, Spicy Dill Pickle, Maple Bourbon or Mountain Medley.

Top-Shelf Ingredients

No high-fructose corn syrup here. This shop uses only ingredients that you’d use in your own kitchen – sweet cream butter, Guittard chocolate, non-GMO popping corn from the Midwest, sea salt, cane sugar, and pure coconut oil.

In an average year, Colorado Kernels pops about 45,000 pounds of seed.

But this is no factory, folks. This a small, family-owned local business, where you can chat with the owner, catch a glimpse of chocolate melting in a pan on the stove and watch the chef personally season the popcorn. About a dozen people run this operation.

“My crew? I consider them my family,” Allen said. “We want (our popcorn) to be the best.”

Where Can You Find It?

It’s on shelves and at events from coast to coast. Look for it at National Parks, the PGA Senior Open, the LPGA US Open, NBA All-Star Week, Ace Hardware, the Pikes Peak Visitor Center, The Broadmoor Hotel, many museums and... Amazon.

“We work with lots of different retailers,” Allen said. “We’re available lots of fun places.”

It’s also available for fundraisers, corporate gifts and private events. They even print custom labels for clients.

A Bit About the Owner

Allen has owned sister company Mountain High Concessions since 2002. If you’ve ever ordered kettle corn or cinnamon-roasted nuts at events at Empower Field at Mile High, the World Arena, the United States Air Force Academy or other venues along Colorado’s Front Range, chances are good that you were eating Mountain High Concession’s handiwork. They do about 200 events per year.

“I know popcorn,” she said.

In 2020, Allen bought Colorado Kernels. Then, stadiums closed down due to the pandemic. Then, her husband Doug, a strong, healthy athlete who participated in Ironman competitions with his wife, was diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer and passed away two days before the start of the school year for their three daughters.

“It was shocking,” Allen said. “You really don’t know what the next day is going to bring you.”

She didn’t have much time to grieve; she was suddenly a single mom during a global pandemic.

“When you’re a parent … you just get up and do,” she said. “There’s not a day that goes by that we don’t miss him. But we try to dwell more on the memories and the fun. You have to be an example of resiliency.”

Facebook + Instagram: @coloradokernels