Popcorn—It’s Addictive!

Friday, June 11th, 2021

It’s hard to think of a more purely American food than popcorn. Whether it’s salted and buttered at a movie theater, kettle corn at a state fair or a caramel popcorn ball at holiday time, we devour the stuff. The smell alone has us asking for more. Who thought to popcorn? And why is it so addictive?

History of Popcorn

French explorers wrote of the Iroquois Indians popping tough corn kernels in pottery jars filled with heated sand. The Iroquois nation spread throughout the Great Lakes region, so it’s likely that settlers to upstate New York, Vermont and Quebec were the earliest European-American popcorn makers. By the mid-1800s, popcorn was beloved by families as a late-night snack in front of the fire, or at picnics and socials. Mass consumption of the treat didn’t take off until the 1890s, after a Chicago entrepreneur named Charles Cretors built the first popcorn-popping machine.

Cretors was a candy-store owner who purchased a commercially made peanut roaster so he could offer freshly roasted nuts at his shop. But he was unhappy with the quality of the machine and began tinkering with it. A few years later, Cretors had designed entirely new machines, powered by steam, for both nut roasting and popcorn popping. The steam ensured all kernels would be heated evenly, for the maximum number of popped kernels, and it also enabled users to pop the corn directly in the desired seasonings. By 1900, Cretors introduced a horse-drawn popcorn wagon, and the era of the popcorn eaters began.

Of course, most Americans now get their popcorn from a microwave, not a horse and buggy. The first patent for a microwave popcorn bag was issued to General Mills in 1981, and home popcorn consumption increased by tens of thousands of pounds in the years following. Today, Americans eat about a million pounds worth of (unpopped) popcorn a year.

What makes popcorn so addictive?

Well, besides its obvious inexpensiveness, there’s also some science behind why we can’t stop eating popcorn. Stuart Hanson, a film historian at De Montfort University in Leicester even compared it to drugs!

“One of the great jokes in the industry is that popcorn is second only to cocaine or heroin in terms of profit.”

Popcorn is made up of strong aroma chemicals that go into the air when heated. Other food industries actually add these chemicals to their food to make the aroma more appealing!

So, remember when you’re stuffing your face with popcorn even before the movie starts, it’s not your fault, it’s SCIENCE!

Popcorn’s versatility

Another reason popcorn is so loved by most people is that it can be paired with so many flavors. Sweet, spicy, salty, savory, you name it! Our personal favorite is, of course, Pistachio Caramel Popcorn. We love it so much and know that our customers do as well, that when the manufacturer told us they were going out of business, we had to take it over! We are adding a new facility to the ranch just for this business!



Heart of the Desert is a working pistachio ranch and vineyard with four retail establishments in New Mexico.  They are best known for their farm fresh pistachios and Award-Winning New Mexico wines.  Each store offers wine and pistachio tastings.  They offer worldwide shipping and produce attractive gourmet baskets that make great corporate and family gifts.  The main store, on the ranch in Alamogordo, offers farm tours that showcases how pistachios are grown and processed as well as a stunning Tuscany themed patio that overlooks the groves and is available for weddings, private parties or enjoying a relaxing glass of wine.