You could drive past a line-up of huge silos in Chapman, Nebraska that are filled with millions of pounds of popcorn kernels.
Imagine all of that unpopped popcorn in these grain bins:
The silos contain a special kind of popcorn that is grown just for movie theaters. And that is the problem.
Our story starts with a jumbo tub of movie theater popcorn. At 130 ounces each, five popcorn tubs were made from one pound of kernels. Since seven of those Nebraska silos hold 15.3 million pounds of kernels, they would have become a whopping 80 million jumbo tubs.
For now, we don’t need them.
At the movies (and car dealers and state fairs), we mostly eat butterfly popcorn. Different from microwavable Orville Redenbacher, Jolly Time, and Pop Secret, butterfly popcorn pops bigger. As a fluffier popcorn, it more easily fills those huge tubs.
This takes us to Preferred Popcorn and the farmers who realized 22 years ago that there was a movie theater market for a specialized kind of popcorn kernels. Through Preferred Popcorn, five farm families connect 100 popcorn growers with larger businesses like theaters and car dealers. They are the sources of the 50- to 100-pound bags of kernels that are shipped directly to those larger businesses or to distributors that combine popcorn with candy like Goobers and Sour Patch Kids and then send them to theaters.
A popcorn primer–a bit dry but interesting:
Our Bottom Line: Popcorn Spillovers
We could say that there is a popcorn spillover from pandemic lockdowns and social distancing. Defined as the positive or negative impact on unrelated third parties, the spillover from the pandemic lockdown of movie theaters rippled to Preferred’s 100 butterfly popcorn growers. It became a negative externality that affected 30 percent of our popcorn. (We eat the other 70 percent at home.)
You might be thinking that they could send their kernels elsewhere. But no, with huge bags their norm, the butterfly popcorn people don’t have enough smaller packages or a supermarket supply chain. As a result, Preferred Popcorn had to add seven storage silos for last year’s crop and this year’s too.
So yes, we have a new kind of spillover striking our 130 ounce tub.
My sources and more: Thanks to Susan over at Izzit for suggesting today’s popcorn post. She alerted me to this Fox article. From there, I checked out The Washington Post and Preferred Popcorn. I was also fascinated by Preferred’s 2 1/2 minute description (below) of the different kinds of popcorn. Who knew??
Our featured image and some popcorn movie history are at AMC.