Orville Redenbacher’s popcorn started as a 4-H fundraiser

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The great success story started in the early 1900s

(WYTV) – What food product now comes from a huge, multi-national corporation? A yummy item that started as a 4-H project?

Popcorn. Specifically, Orville Redenbacher’s Gourmet Popping Corn.

It’s a great success story. When he was a boy after World War I, Orville grew popcorn for his 4-H club and sold it in stores for a profit.

When he went to Purdue, he studied popcorn breeding and after buying an agricultural business in 1952, became the world’s largest grower of hybrid popcorn.

In 1965, after years of breeding and cross breeding, Orville developed a yellow corn that popped twice as large as its competitors and left very few unpopped kernels, known as old maids. He called it Red Bow popcorn, after his bow tie.

He traveled the Midwest, trying to sell it. It was expensive.

Sales finally popped when he put his own face on the package and called it “Orville Redenbacher’s Gourmet Popping Corn.”

By 1975, Orville had the best-selling popping corn. He sold his business to Hunt Wesson in 1976 for millions, but remained during commercials for it.

He died in 1995.

Pop Secret, from Campbell Snacks, is currently the top-selling brand. Orville Redenbacher’s — now part of the Conagra Brands line — was second, followed by Act II and Jolly Time.

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