The eternal companion to moviegoers who curl up in their sofas, seats, or beds as they watch shadows of light in the shape of movies for periods as they chew puffed, and popped corn kernels is a ritual synonymous with the cinematic experience. But the coronavirus pandemic shut down cinemas, theatres, stadiums, concerts, and venues where the popular snack and companion to entertainment were a staple. Social distancing made popcorn sales verboten.
Millions of people followed their government’s recommendations and stayed at home and chose to make their microwave popcorn as a companion to months of locked-up entertainment. A trend that microwave popcorn brands noticed: Their sales have skyrocketed since March this year as scores of viewers chomp down the tasty corn snack.
While brands like Pop Secret, Jolly Time, Orville Redenbacher, and others are on a cash-raking spree, farmers that provide bulk kernels to those giant movie theatres are in trouble, as they have to come up with different strategies to cater to their customer base. Bulk corn kernel producers lack the means or infrastructure to package their products for retail sales; they lack commercial relationships with retailers and don’t have the brand recognition that microwave popcorn brands have.
For corn kernel producers, their business cycle relies on Hollywood’s dynamic of cinematic blockbusters that draw giant crowds to the cinema and purchase those big bowls of tasty popcorn. But with social distancing, lockdowns, and a general halt on the average economy, it is not only Hollywood studios, and IMAXes are suffering the delays, customer drought, and supply & distribution chain pains.
How do you sell a metric ton of popcorn kernels to people in their homes if you don’t have the means to do so? Producers have to stock up in silos and brace for the worst, as microwave producers don’t rely on them for supplies but on other producers.
The American public eats a lot of popcorn at home, and the affected producers sell 100-pound bags of kernels to movie theatres and distributors —about 30% of the popcorn market. As the pandemic set its foothold, the big popcorn manufacturers didn’t consider a good idea to create a brand to place their excess product on the shelves because they lacked the means to make that project concrete as investors shielded their corporations from the cash hemorrhage that the global economy halt implied.
Corn kernels have about a year’s stock life before they go stale, demand isn’t growing, it’s the same, and the food supply chain is in trouble. What was once a stable market: for the past half-century: Movie popcorn —now is a risky business.
There’s also another caveat to this popcorn problem: The kinds of kernels that the affected producers distribute to cinemas and theatres are larger, farmers and crop growers lack the financial means to market these large kernels to a microwave-popcorn eating public as their processing requires other industrial standards and given the economic turmoil, engaging in such endeavors isn’t worth the risk.