Popcorn is a typical snack food in many households, but how did that come to be? While the delectable snack has been around for ages, its presence in neat packages is a relatively new development, and how it got there is a surprising journey. Without further ado, welcome to the long, storied history of popcorn.
POPCORN HISTORY: HOW THIS SNACK ROSE TO FAME
Corn is native to the Americas, and the first people to discover its fluffy, heated form were Indigenous tribes. In fact, popping corn may be the first cooking technique ever used on these colorful kernels. That's right, corn in early North and South America came in various colors, many of which persist today.
Popcorn wasn't just food among Indigenous people, it was also used as decoration. The Aztecs even used it in ceremonial garb for special religious rites.
So how did popcorn go from homegrown confection to supermarket staple? The key was mobile cooking tools.
Popping Machines Change the Game
By 1885, popcorn wasn't just eaten by Indigenous people but was also a staple among European settlers. Farmers in the Great Plains area cooked it regularly, but the process required a stove. That changed with Charles Cretors's popcorn machine. This handy gadget was a portable stall that used electricity to heat oil, making its invention a landmark in the history of popcorn.
You've probably seen similar machines in photos or videos. You may have even seen one in person, as some movie theaters use them as decoration. Their lightweight frames and simple operation make them a mainstay, bringing popcorn to the city streets.
Movies Create a Special Niche
The connection between popcorn and movie theaters is so strong that it's easy to believe it's always been there. However, this classic combination has its roots in the Great Depression.
Motion pictures have been popular in the U.S. since the early 1920s, when films switched from silent to sound. While theaters sold refreshments at this time, popcorn wasn't one of them. However, after the stock market crash of 1929, movie attendance skyrocketed in the U.S. as people sought a cheap way to escape from the toils of everyday life.
Of course, movie theaters competed fiercely to draw in customers. Realizing popcorn was a cheap way to offer a lot of food, theaters began to put it on the menu. It was instantly a hit, and movies and popcorn became inseparable.
Consumers Make Their Popcorn at Home
Entertainment again made its mark on the history of popcorn in the 1940s. Though television was invented in 1927, it wasn't widely used until after World War II. As families started staying home, popcorn companies saw an opportunity to bring the delicious snack back into the kitchen.
In the 1980s, popcorn packaged for the microwave hit the shelves. Interestingly, popcorn is closely tied to the microwave's invention. Percy Spencer, who invented this now-common kitchen appliance, actually used popcorn in many experiments. His goal was to repurpose a World War II technology: magnetrons, which produce microwaves. Who knew the history of microwave popcorn had its roots in the military?
Popcorn Adds Flavor to Special Occasions
Today, popcorn is a common sight for special occasions:
- Movie Night
- Watching Sports
- Fairs + Festivals
- New Year's
People also love giving popcorn as a gift, and many brands produce gift sets for anniversaries, winter holidays, and Valentine's Day.
Of course, you don't need a particular reason to enjoy this beloved snack. You can eat it with friends or family while streaming your favorite show or as an afternoon pick-me-up.
CLASSIC MUNCHABLES: WHY POPCORN IS A FAVORITE SNACK CHOICE TODAY
There's so much to love about popcorn, and with innovations hitting the shelves every year, the list keeps growing. Why do we love popcorn? We could go on for ages, but here are our top three reasons to keep things simple.
1. It's Classic
Snack time, movie time, sporting events, a night in, kid's sleepovers, a classic gift. What isn't a perfect fit for some popcorn?
2. It's Versatile
You can eat popcorn plain or spice it up with toppings. Besides our own flavors, these are a few of our favorites:
- Sea salt
- Melted caramel
- Chocolate drizzle
- Sriracha sauce
- White chocolate
- White cheddar cheese
3. It's Quick and Easy
Popcorn only takes a few minutes to make, which means fewer rumbling stomachs. It's also super easy to make in the microwave, so you can confidently cook it even if you're not comfortable in the kitchen.
Opopop is proud to play a part in the history of popcorn with the invention of our Flavor Wrapped Popcorn Kernels and Peel + Pour Popcorn Cups. It's never been easier to make a tasty snack, and with our wide selection of flavors, you're sure to find the perfect munchable. For more information or to place an order, visit our website.