Blog Post

Ethanol Popping Popcorn Prices?

The “fuel vs food” debate over corn-based ethanol has been heating up over the past months as presidential candidates have been backing the biofuel (John Stossel alert.) One thing’s for sure, some popcorn makers aren’t happy about a rise in the price of corn and the seed to grow the corn.

We just heard this audio clip on NPR:

“Blame the boom in demand for ethanol for higher popcorn prices at a theatre near you. . . The company that makes Jolly Time Pop Corn reports price increases of 10 to 20 percent. Other makers report price hikes as high as 40 percent” — NPR

The Globe and Mail writes a similar story and quotes Jolly Time’s president Garrett Smith:

“I’ve never seen something quite like this,” said the company’s president Garrett Smith, who’s been in the business for three decades. He had to pay farmers almost 70 per cent more this spring than last year to grow his popcorn and has had to boost prices for movie theatre popcorn and jars of unpopped corn. — Globe and Mail

The ethanol government/industry group Ethanol Across America tries to minimize the fuel vs food debate in a report on its website:

For more than three decades, critics have tried to cast ethanol as a “food versus fuel” argument. The marketplace is a better indicator of grain supply and demand—and statistics simply don’t bear out the dire predictions of those who say we must choose between fueling our cars and feeding people. We can do both—and we are.


We wrote about the anti-ethanol report, “The Rush to Ethanol: Not all biofuels are created equal”, last week, which was created by The Network for New Energy Choices, Food and Water Watch, and the Vermont Law School.

Ethanol Across America responds to ‘The Rush to Ethanol” report in this CNN article:

“. . . Corn clearly is a bridge technology to using cellulose and other things,” [Ethanol Across America, director Douglas] Durante said. But the criticisms, he said, are “like beating up a little kid because he’s not done growing yet.” — CNN

5 Responses to “Ethanol Popping Popcorn Prices?”

  1. Jim Beyer


    You make some good points. According to the article Jolly Time: “had to pay farmers almost 70 percent more….to grow his popcorn”.

    I think the problem is that the ethanol plants can pay so much more for whatever corn they use (and why not? Plenty of subsidies to pay for it, with our taxes….) that these specialty corns aren’t even planted.

  2. Hi Katie F and to all others reading this.

    what is wrong with this picture? I’m from the country and am now living in a small town and the last time I heard there was still a few different types of corn.

    Now there is the corn that is prime time that is for popping and then there is the flour grade and then there is the so called COW corn.

    There is no way you would want to boil up some cow corn and start chomping on that. The stuff is just not the same quality as the high grade stuff. Now I would just wonder how dim a person would have to be to send this type off to be made into Ethanol. A government would have to be pretty dim to let this happen also. Good stuff, eating and Duh, cow corn off to the ethanol place for you.

    So, with this said, I am also wondering how the price of a totally different category of grain would have it’s price affected by the ethanol market growth? I mean, come on now we’re in the year 2007 and there really needs to be a debate on this one?

    Somehow I have the impression that someone is pulling Mr. Garrett Smith’s chain and I think he’s letting them pull it. Idea! Why not just buy some of that fine soil out there and grow your own? You’ve got a good thing going and what’s a movie without popcorn, or a card game, or the list goes on and on.

    Let the dim ones get lost in there dimness and keep the ball rolling. The grains that are available have been spruced up some for many years and the price has reflected this. Now, The thorn in the pop corns side seems to be Bio-fuels. Well does the word BIO not seem interesting to you in the popcorn industry also. Now I’m sure that would lower the cost of the grain and why not give mother nature a whack at it for a while, you were kind enough to be a customer of the, should we say, Hopped up stuff for a long while I’m sure and your marketing could reflect your Bio interest as with in the ethanol marketing.

    A piece of land and some good old farming ways, a partnership with Mother Nature and you’ve left the debate in your dust, so to speak. So what do you think? Could you folks in the food industry do such a thing as to control your own destiny and let the freak show amble on by itself. Start up would be costly but once you got rolling I’m sure you would be fine.

    P.S. Swamps, deserts and rain forests would probably not be good locations to grow corn, if you catch my drift. Common sense goes a long ways and there are still some of those types of farmers and managers out there…