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How Popcorn Became One of America’s Favorite Snack Foods

Popcorn is a classic American concession. But have you ever wondered how popcorn became such a popular food? The story of popcorn’s rise to prominence stretches back thousands of years and has many ups and downs, with historical events like Great Depression and World War II playing major roles in the fate of this all-American snack.

Ancient crop explodes into popularity 
The crop that popcorn comes from, maize, was first cultivated about 8,000 years ago in Central America. Trade eventually brought the kernels north, and they made their way to the eastern U.S.Popcorn Series

in the early 1800s. The snack soon became explosively popular and was sold widely at places people went for entertainment, such as circuses and fairs. However, one place popcorn remained absent from was the movies.

From banned substance to profit-making concession
Movie theaters initially banned popcorn from their theaters; movie showings were considered highbrow events, and theater owners didn’t want the sound of eating or the mess of concession trash to sully their venues. Street vendors often sold popcorn near movie theaters, but theater patrons were requested to check their popcorn with their coats!

After movies with sound came out in the late 1920s, movie theaters became all the rage among all classes of people (since you didn’t need to read to watch the movie) and theater owners realized how much money they could make by selling to vendors the right to sell popcorn in their lobbies. The marriage of popcorn and movies has persisted ever since; today, popcorn and other movie concessions have a roughly 85 percent profit margin.

Popcorn sees nation through dark times
During the Great Depression, popcorn became even trendier, as a trip to the movies and a bag of popcorn were cheap fun that just about anyone could afford. Americans also enjoyed more popcorn during World War II – sugar shortages negatively impacted the consumption of candy and soda, and popcorn stepped up to fill in the gap.

Popcorn today
Today, Americans enjoy popcorn both at home and when out having fun, including at the movies. Although it’s easy to make popcorn at home, it doesn’t taste as good as freshly popped concession popcorn, drizzled in hot butter. There’s also a nostalgia about having popcorn at the movies or at a carnival, and people are willing to pay a high premium for that feeling. Request some free informational materials to learn how you can profit from popcorn and other concessions.