How Popcorn Pops
Popcorn is a whole-grain maize product, grown extensively in the corn belt states of the U.S. It’s like corn-on-the-cob in appearance and cultivation, but only popcorn kernels are capable of popping.
Popcorn’s ability to pop lies in the fact that the kernels contain a small amount of water stored in a circle of soft starch inside the hard outer casing. When heated, the water expands, creating pressure within, until eventually the casing gives way and the kernels explode and pop. This allows the water to escape as steam, turning the kernels inside out.
The key to having more kernels pop is a constantly improved product. Throughout the years, popcorn processors have implemented significant hybrid popcorn seed research to continually enhance their product.
Early Popcorn History
- The earliest evidence of popcorn was found in Peru and dates to 4700 BCE.
- It is believed that the first use of wild and early-cultivated corn was for popping.*
- Ancient popcorn poppers—shallow vessels with a hole on the top and a single handle—have been found on the north coast of Peru and date back to the pre-Incan Mochica culture of about 300 AD.
- The English colonists were introduced to popcorn at the first Thanksgiving feast in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Quadequina, brother of the Wampanoag chief Massasoit, brought a deerskin bag of popped corn to the celebration as a gift.
Recent Popcorn History
- The first popcorn machine was invented by Charlie Cretors in 1893.*
- Home poppers were first introduced around 1925.
- In 1945, Percy Spencer discovered that when popcorn was placed under microwave energy, it popped. This led to experiments with other foods, and the birth of the microwave oven.
- Attendance at movie theatres dropped and, with it, popcorn consumption. When the public began eating popcorn at home, the new relationship between television and popcorn led to a resurgence in popularity.
- Americans consume some 16 billion quarts of this whole-grain, good-for-you treat. That’s 51 quarts per man, woman, and child.*
- Popcorn kernels can pop up to 3 ft. in the air.*
- The world’s largest popcorn ball was created by volunteers in Sac City, Iowa, in February 2009. It weighed 5,000 lbs., stood over 8 ft. tall, and measured 28.8 ft. in circumference.*
* Information obtained from www.popcorn.org
ACT II TIMELINE
Golden Valley Microwave Foods, based out of Edina, Minnesota, started with a bold idea–to make products exclusively for use in microwave ovens.
ACT I Microwave Popcorn, a frozen product sold in refrigerated vending machines, was introduced.
Golden Valley developed a revolutionary new popcorn bag, which allowed the kernels in the bag to pop in any microwave. The shelf-stable, non-refrigerated product was called ACT II.
Golden Valley was acquired by ConAgra Foods, Inc.
ConAgra Foods, Inc. produced more than 1 billion bags of popcorn, making Golden Valley the largest manufacturer of microwave popcorn in the world.