As of July 1, Indiana has an official state snack. It’s popcorn grown and packaged in the Hoosier State. The Indiana General Assembly approved a bill designating the state snack in May.
“Not just popcorn, Indiana-grown popcorn,” emphasized State Senator Ron Grooms (R-Jeffersonville), who authored the bill. Grooms says the industry is a major economic contributor to the state.
“It is an amazing industry and people know very little about it,” said Grooms.
According to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Indiana grew 94,000 acres of popcorn in 2020, an increase of 19,000 acres from 2019. In comparison, Indiana farmers are expected to harvest 5.2 million acres of traditional corn used to make ethanol and feed livestock.
The USDA puts the crop value of popcorn at $75 million. ”Anything you can do to promote that, in my opinion, is not only good for the economy, it’s good for family relations. It’s good for community. Just go on down up and down the list and it’s such a great product to have,” said Grooms.
One of the biggest popcorn growers and processors in the world is Weaver Popcorn Co., which is headquartered in Whitestown. It also has a large processing facility in the Grant County town of Van Buren.
Chief Executive Officer Jason Kashman says the state designation is vital to the Indiana industry.
“We believe the news will increase popcorn’s popularity. As we continue to see high growth with our customers and overall demand in the popcorn category, the request for hiring highly skilled operators remains our focus,” said Kashman.
Kashman says the industry felt the impact of the pandemic. He says market demand varied by category.
“Items like ready to eat and microwave popcorn purchased in grocery and consumed at home grew substantially since more people were eating at home versus going out,” said Kashman. “Popcorn sold into places like ball parks and movie theaters declined significantly since there were fewer fans in attendance and no movies were being produced.”
He says the popcorn industry has seen a 20% growth in retail sales of microwave popcorn in 2021, compared to the previous year.
Kashman says Weaver Popcorn is undergoing a large-scale expansion. The company is looking to hire 100 new employees, including machine operators and technicians. Kashman says it is offering wages of up to $29 an hour, plus a $5,000 signing bonus.
“As Indiana’s official snack ‘pops’ into conversations this summer, we encourage folks to share the news of our great pay, benefits and upward mobility,” said Kashman.
In addition to the new state designation, the crop is also getting support from Lieutenant Governor Suzanne Crouch. She is working through the Indiana Destination Development Corp., which promotes state tourism, to create a new popcorn trail highlighting stops where visitors can find the Indiana snack.
In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Grooms said Indiana’s popcorn industry is worthy of attention.