The greatest modern foods have a habit of being surprisingly not so new. Who would have thought pizza is as old as the wheel? Or that chocolate emerged around the same time as Stonehenge’s completion? Well, like other delicious foods that are enjoyed around the world today, popcorn is a lot older than you may think. Evidence suggests that it dates back to 4700 BCE in Peru. Later, popcorn became a favorite of those native to North America, who eventually introduced it to the English in the 16th and 17th centuries.
But this favorite snack didn’t really gain popularity until times were hard. During desperate years, people sought out ways to be distracted from their troubles and during the Great Depression, nothing was a better diversion than movies. Because popcorn was sold in 5 and 10 cent bags, it was cheap enough for most people to afford, causing sales to increase dramatically. Then, nearly a decade later, popcorn sales increased again with the onset of World War II, though for a different reason. People were still regularly enjoying handfuls of popped corn, but during the war, sugar was rationed, becoming so scarce that the supply of candy made in America was greatly depleted. And people filled the void of sweets with savory popcorn.
In the 1980s, microwaves became more commonplace, causing a shift in where the snack was being consumed. Instead of going to the movies to enjoy handfuls of pop, people could eat it almost instantly in their own homes. Today, only 30% of all popcorn is consumed outside the home.