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With movie theaters closed, popcorn farmers are in trouble

Pyramid stack of movie theater popcorn buckets on display
Photo: Noam Galai (Getty Images)

The ongoing pandemic has had weird consequences for both food producers and consumers. Stores have found their shelves bare due to both panic buying and producers cutting back on the variety of items they make, and with stadiums closed peanut farmers have been sitting on a mountain of unsold legumes. Now, thanks to movie theaters largely being closed as well, the same thing is happening to farmers raising corn destined to be popcorn.

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As reported by The Washington Post, 30% of all popcorn in the United States is consumed at movie theaters and other events, which is a not insignificant proportion. So now, with theaters and other popcorn purveyors closed (*cough* dive bars *cough*), unsold popcorn is literally piling up. And when we say “piling up, we’re not exaggerating. According to the Post, the company Preferred Popcorn recently constructed seven brand-new silos just to hold unsold popcorn, and each of those silos can hold up to 15,925,000 pounds of popcorn kernels. Given that the Post’s reporting also says one pound of kernels will produce five 130-ounce tubs, well, you can see how much popcorn we’re talking about.

As with our story about unsold peanuts, the question now is what, exactly, is going to happen to all of that popcorn? Popcorn kernels only have a shelf life of around one year before they grow too dry to correctly pop, and it’s hard to find new buyers given that it would require negotiating contracts, finding production and packaging machinery, managing distribution, and so on. Misfits Market—a produce subscription service that sells “ugly” produce—has purchased 40,000 pounds of kernels from Preferred Popcorn, but Preferred isn’t the only popcorn seller in the U.S. If this one company’s surplus holdings are over 111 million pounds, and Misfits has purchased a comparatively minuscule 40,000 pounds...that’s a lot of leftovers.

Jacob Dean is a food and travel writer and psychologist based in New York. He likes beer, less traveled airports, and is allergic to grasshoppers (the insect, not the mixed drink.)

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DISCUSSION

agb5
moistened bint

Where are those silos of popcorn kernels? Nowhere near the wild fires I hope.