5 Facts About Orville Redenbacher, the Man Behind the Popcorn

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Orville Redenbacher revolutionized popcorn as we know it
Orville Redenbacher

Photo Modified: Flickr/ Orin Zebest/ CC4.0

Redenbacher always preferred stovetop popcorn to microwave popcorn. 

If you’re a fan of microwave popcorn (and who isn’t?), you’ve most likely heard of Orville Redenbacher’s and seen the picture of its friendly looking namesake on every box. But Redenbacher did a lot more than lend his visage to his popcorn company. Here are five things we bet you didn’t know about this popcorn legend.

He Invented His Namesake Strain of Popcorn
Beginning in the early 1950s, Redenbacher went through tens of thousands of hybrid strains of popcorn before settling on the perfect popcorn after nearly 20 years of research, which he brought to the masses in 1970.

He Was a Legendary Agricultural Scientist
Before Redenbacher came along, popcorn hadn’t changed much in more than 5,000 years. But through relentless trial and error, he was able to more than double the size of the hybrid’s resulting popcorn, from the standard 20 times to a lighter, fluffier 40 times, which is today the industry standard.

He Didn’t Do It Alone
Redenbacher launched his popcorn company in 1951 with a man named Charlie Bowman; together they ran the company for many decades, with Bowman serving as the company’s president and Redenbacher managing scientific research. Bowman retired as the company’s president in 2006, at the age of 87.

He Was Reluctant to Become the Company’s Namesake
Because he shared the company with Bowman, the magic popcorn strain they built the company around was named RedBow. An advertising agency hired to help launch the popcorn company didn’t like that name, however. The agency convinced them to go with Orville Redenbacher instead, and to put his picture on the label. The popcorn made its first appearance in Chicago’s Marshall Field’s department store in 1970, and within five years the company had captured a third of the country’s popping corn market.

He Never Preferred Microwaving Popcorn
Redenbacher always believed that popcorn made the old-fashioned way on a stovetop turned out far superior to popcorn that was made in a microwave. 

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