Popcorn is one of the most popular snack products in America (Smith, 1972). As a result, many of the larger brands of popcorn spend tremendous amounts of money on advertising, all touting their particular brand as the best type of microwavable popcorn. Advertising for Orville Redenbacher brand popcorn claims that their popcorn has fewer un-popped kernels in each bag than the competition. This speaks to the idea that the percentage of unpopped kernels being an indicator of popcorn product quality - as people want more food for their money, providing more kernels per bag would be advertising. However, the validity of this claim requires incredible study. The purpose of this project is to test the overall product quality of Orville Redenbacher and Jolly Time brand microwavable popcorn. Which brand provides the most popcorn, and by definition leaves the fewest number of unpopped kernels in the bag? This quantitative study will examine the ratio of popped to unpopped kernels in a sample of two different brands of popcorn. The ratio of popped to unpopped kernels will determine the overall quality of the microwavable popcorn product, which will in turn dictate which brand is recommended for consumption.
Smith (1972) claims, in a clinical study of various brands of popcorn products, that Orville Redenbacher averaged the highest level of unpopped kernels of any other brand at 95.0%. Pop Secret and Jolly Times averaged approximately the same percentage of popped kernels, with Pop Secret coming in second at 90.4% and Cousin Willie’s third at 90.3% but the only brand averaging 83.5% was Kroger (Smith, 1972). The overall quality of popcorn can also be affected by whether or not the popcorn is damaged - even when they pop, their overall kernel size is substantially smaller, at 47.5% less volume than normal kernels (Singh et al., 1997). However, there is a distinct lack of further research on the subject of efficiency of popcorn products as an indicator of quality. As a result, additional study is needed to provide a greater baseline of data from which to extrapolate.
The hypothesis for this experiment is that Orville Redenbacher brand microwavable popcorn will produce fewer unpopped kernels than Jolly Time. This is the assertion being presented by Orville Redenbacher marketing materials, and what is being tested. A quantitative study was conducted on two different brands of microwavable popcorn: Orville Redenbacher and Jolly Time microwavable popcorn. The reasoning for the quantitative study is to provide a concrete, comparable data set with which to compare both of these brands. The hypothesis is that Orville Redenbacher branded popcorn will produce fewer un-popped kernels then the competition, Jolly Time. Ten (10) bags of Orville Redenbacher microwavable popcorn were microwaved, as well as ten (10) bags of Jolly Time microwavable popcorn. The number of popped kernels (P) and unpopped kernels (U) were then counted, their percentages being recorded (PP). The same microwave was used for each bag of microwavable popcorn to ensure the same conditions are applied to each trial. The experiment was conducted over one session, each bag being microwaved for approximately 2.5 minutes (Popcorn setting on microwave).
Threats to validity include the potential for heating bags differently, which would lead to different ratios of popped-to-unpopped kernels. Defective bags could also negatively affect the results, and different bag sizes could provide unfairly different numbers of available kernels. However, using the same microwave will maintain a good level of consistency between these trials, and obviously defective bags (ones that pop fewer than 20 kernels of popcorn) will be thrown out and not used in the trial. Both brands will be tested with their 5.7oz bags, to ensure exact same bag size and volume.
After each bag was microwaved, the contents were poured into a large bowl and sorted. The number of successfully popped kernels was recorded, as well as the number of kernels which remained unpopped. Partially popped kernels were considered to be unpopped, as they would be inedible in a normal context. Once the contents of all twenty bags were counted, the data was inserted into a table.
The number of popped and unpopped kernels are averaged for all ten trials, then compared. The mean percentage for Orville Redenbacher's popped to unpopped ratio was 94.1%, and Jolly Time's mean percentage was 89.9%. The standard deviation was 5%, Comparing these two percentages, the higher ratio of popped to unpopped kernels goes to Orville Redenbacher.
The results of the study confirm the hypothesis that Orville Redenbacher's microwavable popcorn produces a higher popped-to-unpopped kernel ratio than its leading competitor, Jolly Time. The experimental design was crucial to determining a concrete set of trials which helped to verify this assertion. As the number of testing materials is small, and the design simple, it would be easy for future researchers to replicate this experiment (all that is required is a microwave, the set number of identically sized bags of popcorn, and sorting bowls). By replicating this experiment, the validity of these claims could be further verified through a larger collective data set of popped-to-unpopped kernels.
Singh, V., Barreiro, N.L., McKinstry, J., Buriak, P., & Eckhoff, S.R. (1997). Effect of kernel
size, location, and type of damage on popping characteristics of popcorn. Cereal
Chemistry 74(5): 672-675.
Smith Jr, (1972). A history of pop corn and the American Pop Corn Company. Sioux City, Iowa:
American Pop Corn Company. New York, OUP.