Ecommerce grocer Thrive Market has launched a new movie theater-style popcorn, sourced from farmers who were left with a massive surplus of kernels after cinemas began to shut down during the pandemic. Now, Thrive members are able to purchase butterfly kernels, a fluffier variety typically only found at the movies, instead of the mushroom kernels more often available to consumers.
Butterfly kernels are highly expansive when they pop, increasing their ability to hold onto the flavor of the butter or other ingredients. This quality usually makes the kernels profitable to grow, but that changed when COVID-19 hit.
“A lot of popcorn is specifically grown for movie theaters. And with all of them closed, it was just sitting there, filling all of these farmers’ silos, and they had nothing that they could do with it,” Thrive Market Brands senior director Jenna Engelman tells Variety. “We were able to be part of a solution that helps support growers, reduces food waste and lets our members replicate the full movie experience from home.”
Thrive connected with a network of 100 growers across the Midwest who had more than 15 million pounds of surplus kernels. “At the end of September is actually when this year’s crops will be harvested, because popcorn kernels are harvested once the kernels are dry on the stalks,” Engelman said. “So it was really that much more crucial that we helped move inventory before the end of this month. Otherwise, they would have had this year’s crop go to complete waste because there would have been nowhere to store it.”
As of now, the grocer hasn’t decided whether movie theater popcorn will be a limited edition product on the site or if they will continue to partner as theaters have reopened.
“Our mission is to make healthy living easy and affordable for every American family. And in addition to our main mission, we’re really focused on sustainability,” Engelman said. “One of the things we love about being an e-commerce [platform] is our ability to be nimble and try and provide solutions like this. Some of our product innovators are working on different projects related to upcycling, to find ways to either repurpose or upcycle existing products.”
Thrive Market’s Movie Theater Popcorn is available now for $1.99 per 28-ounce bag.