Popcorn-gate, an unexpected development... (#30)

Today's subject: A follow-up to the last post  "The popcorn test: You don't need me, not for most things"(#29)

Before I move on, a big thanks to an old colleague of mine, Mr Corn (surprisingly, not his real name) for getting in touch after my last post with some tasty inside information.

Our brief email exchange is recounted below. Mr Corn's superior puffed-grain based knowledge got me thinking and my reflections are at the bottom of this update. Enjoy:

On Fri, 27 Jan 2017 at 20:51 Mr Corn wrote:

Hi Russell,

I currently look after a Mill and a Cereal factory. The Mill supplies popping corn into the largest chain of cinemas in xxxx. The grain/corn is controlled by a general standard called grain trade which states 98% popping ratio. I can ensure you that extreme efforts and lots of tears go into cleaning and conditioning the corn to make your son’s movie experience enjoyable.

However I'll share your son’s dissatisfaction with the team and we will strive for excellence.

I hope you and your family are well.

Mr Corn

On 28 Jan 2017, at 19:37, Russell Watkins wrote:

Hi Mr Corn,

Thanks for the reply & the information, really interesting. Out of interest, how do you condition the corn? I'd estimated a 2-3% yield loss which stacks up to your 98%. From now on I'm going to offer to pay 98% of the price to the cinema until you can pull your finger out and make every egg a chick!

Hope you're well & the family are happy. 


On Sat, 28 Jan 2017 at 09:18 Mr Corn wrote:


We condition the corn by adding moisture over a period of time, the moisture has a direct impact on the popping expansion ratio. As a consumer you are interested in the % popped and so is the cinema to a degree, however the expansion ratio is where the money is made. Larger the expansion the more air the cinema is able to sell to the consumer as the buckets are sold by volume and not weight.

Another point to note is that you feel short changed by the unpopped corn. Actually though, if it had popped you wouldn't have received any more corn, as the corn falls to the bottom and you purchasing by volume. Actual fact is that the cinema lost; if those corns had popped they would have used less corns to fill your bucket.

We sell popping corn at y / kilo... How much profit does the cinema make? 

Never judge a manufacturing process by its cover 

Take it easy

Mr Corn

My reflection is that he's, quite rightly, telling me to stop moaning as it's the cinema that loses out. Having said that, the healthy margins they make on popcorn suggests that cinema managers across the world probably aren't crying themselves to sleep over this one. Costs residing somewhere in the supply chain usually end up rolling downhill to the end Customer.

It does raise interesting points about the need to understand both the process AND the business model to see where the pain truly sits. If we want to engage people to countermeasure waste, best that we engage the right people with an incentive to make the improvement.

Next time, a devastating exposé of the cheesy nacho market, maybe :)


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