INDIANAPOLIS — From movie theaters to sporting events, popcorn is an essential snack in many different venues in the U.S.
According to the United States Census Bureau, about 785.7 million pounds of popcorn were grown in the U.S. in 2012 alone.
Where does all the popcorn come from? Per the United States Popcorn Board, most of the grain is produced in Midwest states like Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska and Ohio.
According to Tasting Table, Nebraska has traditionally been known as the nation’s premier popcorn-growing state. Data provided by the U.S. Census Bureau shows that the Cornhusker State has been known to grow as much as 45% of the country’s popcorn supply.
In a report published in 2022, AgriNews declared that Indiana had unseated Nebraska as the nation’s top producer of popcorn. The Hoosier State passed Nebraska in popcorn acreage in 2021.
Data released by the USDA shows that Indiana planted over 97,000 acres of popcorn in 2021. The Hoosier State upped the amount of land it dedicated to popcorn by about 14,000 acres from 2017-21.
Indiana’s rich history with popcorn is deeply tied to Orville Redenbacher, who was born on a farm in Brazil, Indiana, in 1907. Redenbacher went on to launch a brand of popcorn under his own name.
Redenbacher first began to grow and sell his own popcorn as a 12-year-old boy in Brazil, according to the popcorn brand’s website. His then-small business allowed him to save enough money to attend Purdue University and earn a bachelor’s degree in agricultural science.
Redenbacher’s popcorn first hit supermarket shelves in 1944, according to his company’s website.
Redenbacher and his business partner, Charles Bowan, developed their “perfect popcorn hybrid” by 1965. The company’s website claims the Redenbacher-exclusive kernel is light and fluffy, leaving “hardly any unpopped kernels.” The Redenbacher kernel boasts a 44-1 ratio of popped to unpopped kernels, per the brand’s website.
Though Redenbacher died in 1995, his business is still one of the top popcorn brands in the U.S. The company produces more than a handful of different popcorn varieties, oils and seasonings.
According to the company’s website, Orville Redenbacher is still the No. 1 microwave popcorn brand in the U.S.
Statista data shows that Orville Redenbacher is the most-consumed brand of popcorn in the country, topping ACT II and Pop Secret. Congara Brands, which now owns Orville Redenbacher, has generated $12.2 billion in sales in 2023, according to Forbes. The same Forbes report shows that Congara has made $805 million in profit so far this year.