Popcorn Farmers Look for New Markets as Theater Business Dwindles

September 24, 2020

With audiences largely reluctant to return to the movies, it’s not just theater chains that are struggling to adapt to life during the pandemic. Farmers who supply theaters with popcorn have seen orders for their product almost disappear as retail suppliers have seen sales surge. While Orville Redenbacher, Jolly Time, and Pop Secret have benefited from consumers staying home, the Preferred Popcorn company in Nebraska has millions of tons of unsold kernels on hand.

Preferred Popcorn primarily supplies snack distributors for movie theaters with 50- to 100-pound bags of popcorn. Initially, the company was unable to repackage its products and sell it to retailers and supermarkets, leaving silos stuffed with popcorn kernels that could fill more than 80 million movie theater tubs. Since all that corn could only stay sellable for about a year, Preferred Popcorn started looking for alternatives to movie theaters. Their search led them to Misfits Market, a subscription service that specializes in unattractive but edible produce.

“The food supply chain has been disrupted in meaningful ways by the pandemic. Our goal is to serve a pretty unique purpose in that supply chain,” said Abhi Ramesh, founder of Misfits Foods. “We work with Preferred to repack the giant bags into 28-ounce household bags, branded with Preferred Popcorn as a way to get recognized by consumers.” So far Misfits has purchased tens of thousands of kernels from Preferred, but the company still has a lot of unsold stock that could go bad if business does not pick up soon. 

Questions:

  1. Why are popcorn farmers who supply movie theaters struggling during the pandemic while retail brands like Orvile Redenbacher thrive?  
  2. How does Misfit Markets help Preferred Popcorn reach out to new markets? 

Source: Laura Reiley, “Movie Theater Popcorn Sales Have Tanked, Prompting American Popcorn Farmers to Find New Markets,” The Washington Post, September 18, 2020. Photo by Dan.

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