I grew up in Nebraska and I was fed popcorn all my life as part of a generational touchstone. If you squeezed me a little too hard, peanut oil would come out of my eyes!

Now that I’m back in the popcorn swing after a decade away, I was surprised and disappointed to find food giant ConAgra has a stranglehold on free market popcorn buying choices.

ConAgra wrangles three popcorn brands in their bin: Act II and Jolly Time and Orville Redenbacher are all ConAgra products! Gosh, I wonder if the popcorn and ingredients are exactly the same in all three popcorn brands and it’s only the packaging that creates a difference: Buy one brand and you’ve tasted them all! That takes the fun out of popcorn exploration.

19 Comments

  1. AdjunctX — I’ll take two!
    :mrgreen:
    Robin — Oh, you have like 10 choices per brand of popcorn now, Robin! There’s light, there’s sweet and kettle and little butter and caramel and cheddar and superbutter and nut and no-trans-fat and and and and…

  2. It’s interesting that ConAgra dominates the popcorn world. In a parallel universe, the same question can be asked of our automobile choices.
    As old-line automakers falter, will there just be one huge car company providing our transportation choices in the near future?
    It seems that the car and popcorn worlds are colliding.
    Maybe it is a trend throughout the whole marketplace.
    There’s always a part of my mind that wants to support the smaller, more local brand, whether it’s popcorn, vehicles, or pizza. Having a choice to buy something different is important. That doesn’t happen when everything is produced by the same company.
    Having only one choice in the market takes all of the fun and variety out of consumerism.

  3. Hi Chris!
    Yes, I think the Popcorn Cabal is indicative of the unfortunate coming together of conglomerations that narrow our choices as consumers. The day will likely come when “Toyota Buttered Caramel Cheddar Popcorn” will pour fresh out of your air conditioner vents when you touch a button on your steering wheel.
    The banking world is shrinking.
    Car manufacturers are merging.
    Insurance companies are squeezing out the little guy.
    Airlines are going bankrupt to get rid of high salaries and pension funds so they can cobble and connive with another airline.
    Sometimes you wonder if vital services like power and gas and the internet and public transportation and healthcare should be Federalized and price controlled for mass benefit consumption so we consumers can hope for some kind of protection from having no choice but one someday and ending up paying through our collective noses for imperative services to a single for-profit company.
    I, too, support the sole proprietorship. Those businesses are the backbone of America and when they are eaten by the Wal-Marts and the other megaliths, we all lose in the long run for the brief delight of paying lower prices.

  4. Ugh. Did you say Wal-Mart?? 👿
    I buy local whenever possible.
    Oh, and by the way, I was raised in the Corn Husker state too ya know. I’m a popcorn connoisseur. Notice that Pop Secret butter isn’t part of the ConAgra Popcorn Cabal. Old fashioned popcorn made with oil in a pot is still the best. It’s fun. Happy Thanksgiving ya’ll 🙂

  5. Ooo! I love your Wal-Mart link! Bwa-haa! Yes, they give us cheaper prices and we pay for healthcare for the employees they underpay! 🙁
    You’re going to have to remind me of your Cornhusker roots in detail, suzanne. You’ve mentioned bits of it but you’ve never revealed all. Spill it! 🙂
    I agree home cooked popcorn is the best. It takes longer and is messier but the satisfying warm goodness is worth it.

  6. I love popcorn the old-fashioned way, cooked on the stove with butter and salt. I’ve got one of those popcorn pans with a handle that has a crank which turns two spokes in the bottom of the pan to stir the popcorn. Since I’ve got a smooth-top stove, the old-timey way of shaking the pan only scratches the surface. 😳
    I’ve never been one for caramel popcorn. Now, white cheddar popcorn? Nummynummynummy… I could eat a whole bag in one sitting! 😯

  7. clem — That’s right! Popcorn is thicker than blood! It can heal you faster than any pill. Popcorn as vaccine must be right around the corner.
    Carla — Ooo! I like your popcorn setup. The old pros used to use the paddle wheel approach. Cool! Yeah, shaking back and forth is only for a 1970s era stove in a one room apartment in Alphabet City. Oh, how I miss the old days! I’m not big on caramel corn either — too sweet. I’m with you on the white cheddar, though. It is completely enticing!

  8. Hi suzanne!
    Fantastic story about growing up in Lincoln! What part of town did you live in and where did you go to grade school?
    Thanks for the link to the activity tomorrow! I love it when people are proactive against corporate bullies!
    ConAgra, it seems, owns the food world! There’s nothing left for the rest of us to eat or own that ConAgra doesn’t already have its thumb into… they also have an extensive chemical and additive group so they’re probably sprinkled and preserving everything we eat in some way.

  9. david,
    the web link i provide above is one two great companies i know of that specialize in popcorn that have new york city locations.
    The other one is called Popcorn, Indiana, and they have lots of flavours.
    You’ll notice one commonality between them besides having lots of flavours and nothing but popcorn. THEY’RE BOTH CERTIFIED KOSHER! Sorry to yell. But they are! Considering how few jews there are in the world it’s so great that they took the trouble to get certified.

  10. There’s this story I heard from a rabbi about how he went to this farm in upstate new york. The farmer offered him a honey-almond snack. He explained that the rabbi should have no problem eating it becaues it was just almonds and honey. The rabbi asked what was used to keep it from sticking to the tray that was used to dry it on. The farmer replied, “Lard.”
    The problem with a lot of popcorns is that they don’t get any sort of kosher certification, so for all I know, they share a plant with a company that manufactures non-kosher products, or some of the additives might be problematic.
    Let’s see. Orville Reddenbacher honestly must use a different variety of corn or something, because you can put their popcorn in the microwave and act ii in a competing microwave, and o.r. will get you a better popcorn / unpopped kernel ratio than act ii. I’m not sure what Jolly Time tastes like but word on the street is that it’s the least of the three in terms of flavour.