January 18, 2022

Pop-ular popcorn: Indiana a top producing popcorn state

BROOKSTON, Ind. — Nebraska usually ranks No. 1 in popcorn production, but last year Indiana had the highest acreage of popcorn planted.

“Indiana is a major hub for popcorn production,” said Rachel Foley, senior ag operations specialist at ConAgra, at the Indiana Certified Crop Adviser Conference.

“Some of the major store brands that are still around today, Orville Redenbacher and Weaver, were born, raised and started their businesses in Indiana. It has a long history in the state.”

Northwest Indiana is a hot spot for popcorn acres. White and Pulaski counties have the most — and Pulaski County is known as the “Popcorn Capital of the U.S.”

The United States is the No. 1 producer and consumer of popcorn in the world.

“Americans are estimated to eat 15 billion quarts of popcorn every year,” Foley said. “Very little popcorn is imported into the U.S. We produce and eat more popcorn than any other country.

“COVID did have an impact on the popcorn business — positively on the grocery side of things and negatively on the food service side. People were sitting at home, eating popcorn and watching Netflix.

“Food service got hit pretty hard. Sporting events and movie theatres really experienced a downturn, as far as popcorn sales go.”

A Quick History Of Popcorn

Popcorn has been a food crop for a very long time. It was cultivated by the Native Americans in the Southwest and into Mexico, Foley said.

“In fact, some popcorn ears were found in a cave in New Mexico that were estimated to be 4,000 years old,” she said. “More recently, in the 1890s through the Great Depression, it became a cheap, popular snack food at events and in movie theaters.

“In the 1980s, microwave popcorn became available. Today, while microwave popcorn is still very popular, ready-to-eat popcorn has come onto the stage. Ready-to-eat popcorn is already popped and bagged. It’s marketed as a healthier alternative to potato chips.”

Erica Quinlan

Erica Quinlan

Field Editor