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.
Up until two decades ago, each year since the 1945 had shown an increase of how much popcorn was sold annually, hitting an all-time high in 1993 at about 1,158,000,000 units. While America is still the number 1 consumer of popcorn in the world, sales have dropped, and in 2010, only 958,650,076 units were sold.
However, though sales fluctuate in the US, other countries seem eager to add it to their pantries. In the past 15 years, places like Argentina have expanded popcorn crops from a mere 1,000 acres to over 10,000. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, popcorn exports climbed more than 39 million pounds from 1999 to 2000.
It’s theorized that the shift in consumption has to do with the increased purchases of more processed snacks like potato chips, which are quickly outpacing the retail sales of popcorn. To mow down on a bag of potato chips, all you have to do is open it. To dig into a bowl of popcorn, you have to pop it first – and many people want a snack that’s so quick it requires no extra preparation. We’re all so concerned about being able to eat quickly that the two minutes it takes to microwave popcorn is now seen as a huge inconvenience. However, with new research on the terrific health benefits of popcorn coupled with the understanding of the adverse affects of poor diet choices, it’s hoped that sales of this delicious snack will once again be on the rise in America.
About the Author:
“Katie Straw” is the writer at KingOfPOP.com, maker of delicious handcrafted gourmet popcorn, and currently resides in Manchester, New Hampshire.