Interesting history behind beloved food

February 25, 2010

A bag of popcorn and a good movie. Who could ask for more on a wind driven, snowplow day in winter?

But it was one particular kind of popcorn I was looking for. I thought I had saved a bag of it for a special occasion — like a winter day. I couldn’t find it so I went on the Internet to try to find B.K. Heuermann’s hulless popcorn.

B.K. Heuermann’s popcorn is not just any popcorn. It has a story, which to my despair has come to an end. B.K. Heuermann told me so himself. I am getting ahead of myself.

Years ago I was traveling on business through Nebraska. On Highway 34, between Grand Island and Aurora, I passed a farm with a sign that read “Heuermann’s popcorn.” It was a farm where popcorn grew. I found that interesting and filed it in my mind.

I happened to stop overnight in Falls City at the Lied Center and wandered into the gift shop, and there on the counter was a package for sale, of Heuermann’s hulless popcorn. It was, bar none, the best popcorn I had ever eaten — trust me, I’ve eaten a lot of popcorn in my day.

Off and on, I have ordered and given as gifts, boxes of Heuermann’s popcorn. So when I couldn’t find it this year, I was dismayed. I called B.K. Heuermann and asked him about it. Seems he’s sold the company to Con Agra. He tells me they have their own spin, and that it’s not the same as his original popcorn.

B.K. Heuermann is 84 years old; old enough to sell his company if he wants to. He began at age 17 as a hybrid seed corn salesman, which he did for 47 years. When that company sold, he worked another 10 years, and in l984 asked himself what he was going to do when he retired. Well, he started developing popcorn — microwavable, hulless popcorn. In l997, the Nebraska Department of Economic Development invited QVC to Grand Island. Of 280 vendors, 10 were chosen — one of who was B.K.H. In four minutes on QVC, 1,800 cases of popcorn were sold. The rest is history, sort of.

I’ve never met B.K. Heuermann, but he’s on my bucket list. Come spring, I’m driving north to Nebraska to a little town, off highway 34 to meet the Nebraska farmer who went from seed corn to popcorn and beyond. I am sure there is more to his story.

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