Friday, June 13, 2014

From Cob to Chip: It's probably from #Marion County, #Ohio.

Welcome back to my series on Marion County, Ohio and World War 1.  Marion County was started by farmers and farming has continued to have an impact on the county. One the most important crops produced in the county is corn, especially popcorn.

One of the most influential Ohio based snack companies is located in Marion, Ohio. Wyandot, Inc. began in Wyandot County in 1936 when W. Hoover Brown and his wife, Alva, wanted a supplement to their grain and livestock feeding operation.

“With our farm income depressed, and with Ava’s encouragement, I decided to go into the popcorn processing business. We thought this would bolster our income and, at the same time, allow me to continue to operate the family farm. In early May 1936, I planted 100 acres of popcorn.” – W. Hoover Brown.

Mr. Brown operated his popcorn business out of the one room school house he had attended when he was a boy. During the Great Depression his popcorn became a favorite, inexpensive treat. Sales grew so quickly he needed to expand his operations. In 1944, he added a four story factory adjoining the school house in order to keep up with the growing demand of his product. Annual sales for that were three billion pounds of popcorn!

Four years later, Mr. and Mrs. Brown founded the Popped-Right Corn Company, located on Mill Street in Marion, Ohio. The Popped-Right Corn Company was a subsidiary company that produced popcorn for movie theaters throughout the United States. In 1950, Popped-Right Corn Company released a caramel flavored corn that was called "Golden Crisp Caramel Corn."

Mr. Brown's company continued to expand during the 50's. He opened other subsidiary companies in Ohio, Nebraska, Indiana and Kentucky.

In 1961, the Frito Company merged with the H.W. Lay Company. Mr. Brown's younger brother, Warren,  recognized that this would be a great opportunity for Popped-Right Corn Company to become a supplier to regional potato chip manufacturers. Warren approached farmers throughout the Midwest and along the East Coast with the brilliant idea.  Popped-Right Corn Company would manufacture and package chips under the chipper's brand. With a greater operation behind their name the chippers could market their brand into larger markets. The idea took hold and Popped-Right Corn Company's sales expanded.

In 1964, Wyandot and Popped-Right Corn Company established their offices in Marion at 135 Wyandot Avenue. You can read more about the company's history on their website. In 1982, the company built the Wyandot Popcorn Museum in Marion, Ohio. The Popcorn Festival, held annually the first weekend after Labor Day, was named as one of the Top 100 Events in North America by the American Bus Association.

Chances are if you order a salty snack at a restaurant or buy one in the grocery store you are probably eating something that was made in Marion, Ohio.

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