Orville Redenbacher’s Gourmet Popcorn – What’s happening to you?

I like my popcorn. Many years ago I decided to see if the brand name popcorns were actually worth any extra money and bought several different kinds and tried them against some no name brands and decided that, at least in the case of the “Orville Redenbacher” offering there really was a difference. Like the ads claimed, most of the kernels would pop and the popped corn was very light and fluffy.

I have popcorn at least once or twice a week and for years I have been pleased with the consistency of the Redenbacher brand. My favorite is their “white corn” mostly because the result seems brighter and more festive to me. I cook my popcorn on the stove and use the microwave stuff only now and then as I don’t really favor the seasonings that are used for those (Orville or otherwise).

A couple of months ago I opened a new container of Orville Redenbacher popcorn that popped  in a manner that could only be described as lackluster. Probably a fifth of the kernels had not popped and those that did were unenthusiastic cheerleaders for the Redenbacher brand at best.

So I cracked open my next-in-line container of  popcorn (seriously, I’m not gonna run out if I can help it so I always have a spare…) that I noted had the same lot number and expiry date (Feb 17, 2011) on it. It was also dismal.

So I went to my local store and picked up another container, different lot number, and later expiry date and… exactly the same thing.

On the label, the Orville Redenbacher products have only a phone number that you can call for information or “To leave comments”. I figured I could help them out by at least registering a complaint. But the phone system offers no ability to talk to a live human or to leave a comment. So I left a note with them through their website to voice my displeasure over the apparent lack of quality control in their product recently.

So, as with another quest I’ve undertaken recently I went out to see if there are alternatives to my favorite popcorn.

I picked up a bag of Kroger’s yellow popcorn and a container of “Pop-Secret Jumbo Popping Corn”.

Both performed admirably. The Pop-Secret kernels were *huge* and this did result in somewhat larger popcorn after it had popped. But the simple Kroger popcorn was fine as well. Both had nearly every kernel popping and both I would use again in a heartbeat.

I’ve finished the bag of Kroger popcorn and am still happy with it and I’ve had three servings of the Pop-Secret with no complaints.

My message left on the the Orville Redenbacher site was as follows:

Recently I purchased 3 bottles of “White Corn Gourmet Popping Corn”. That appear to be from 2 different batches.

2 expiring Feb. 17, 2011 and the third sometime in April.

I’ve been using Orville Redenbacher popcorn for about 2 decades now and have always been pleased with the quality and consistency of your product. These recent batches were terrible. Many of the kernels remain unpopped (up to 1/5 of them) and those that did pop were lackluster in their appearance at best being barely puffed.

I didn’t immediately think to try this web site, but rather contacted the number listed on the container that indicated it could be used for “questions and comments” but found no avenue for the latter. So I simply returned the products to the store.

While it is said that “voting with your dollar” is the most effective way to let a company know when it is failing, I have found the Orville Redenbacher brand so reliable over the past 20 years that I wanted to register my concern / complaint with you more directly than simply switching to a different product.

One thing that truly sets the “Orville Redenbacher” brand apart from others (and hence makes it worth the premium at the checkout counter) is the certainty that quality control will ensure that your popcorn experience will always be great. I have to say that that confidence was a little shaken after the first two containers but shattered after the third.

I am hopeful that, if this is a systemic issue, that others have voiced their concern as well and that measures will be taken to correct whatever failings led to my lackluster product experience.

I was somewhat mollified to receive an email response from them within a couple of days that included this paragraph:

Due to the unusually wet growing season, we are forced to use a different drying process to prepare the kernels for production.  This is the likely cause of the unpopped kernels/excess hulls as you¿ve experienced. We are adjusting our processes to reduce the occurrence of this situation. In the meantime, we want to offer you a replacement coupon for ANY ORVILLE product.

True to their word, a week or so later I received not one but *three* coupons for replacement Orville products.

I appreciate it that they would be stand up enough to not only offer a reasonable explanation for the poor experience that I had with their product, but also to go as far as one could reasonably expect them to go to “make it right”.

So this week, with coupons in hand, I’ll be picking up some new Orville Redenbacher popcorn and figure out if the issue was merely a fluke with a temporary cause or if  there really are now issues with the brand.

More to come.

Posted under Gastronomy

This post was written by Marc
on October 11, 2010 at 6:59 am

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10,572 views

20 Comments so far

  1. Carol Walker December 30, 2010 8:11 pm

    I have been buying Orville Redenbachers Kettle Korn for years, recently every box is defective. The outside of the popcorn sack is greasy and wet and the popcorn after you pop it is dry and tasteless. There is no phone number to call and complain to the company, apparently they don’t care, especially after all the complaints I have read. I will be buying another brand after this.

  2. Marc December 30, 2010 10:53 pm

    @Carol Walker – Hey Carol, head over to their website. Their phone number is useless but – as I found above – they do actually respond to feedback left on their website. In my case they explained what was going on to cause the issue I was seeing.
    The coupons they sent certainly didn’t hurt either as trying them again a few months later was 100% risk free.

  3. Connie Oliveras March 14, 2011 4:43 pm

    I recently purchased 3 boxes of whole grain butter pop corn and was very disappointed each and every bag popped 1/3 only, the rest of the kernels were a waste.

  4. Schneider July 25, 2012 6:05 pm

    We have been buying Smart pop for years mini serving(4 bags) and regular(10 bags)94% fat free- and they nolonger even pop most of the bag , very discouraging!! and disappointing, what is up with this!!!??? thanks for a reply !

  5. J. Peterson October 13, 2013 9:45 pm

    I also have noticed that the Redenbacher brand popcorn is no longer a good popcorn. Although my bags pop correctly, the popcorn was below average in taste and the new package was impossible to open without using scissors. I believe Redenbacher is in a downward spiral like GM.

  6. Eleanor. Rose November 26, 2013 7:33 pm

    I suppose that I can say that we have been enjoying Orville’s popcorn for many of the 54 years we have been married; but we are very disapointed with the latest we have used.(We are real popcorn freaks and this is a disaster(smile) but we are old codgers (age7 9) and we have fewer pleasures these days…so please fix yer’ dern popcorn!!smile/smile!
    So; doggone it**!! Fix up that there popcorn

    Now isn’t this about the saddest tale you have ever heard? (smile again)

    But hey; wait til YOU are older than dirt and YOUR pleasures are few! (smile/smile)

    So very sad no? Does my story deeply touch your heart? (SMILE)

    Eleanor Rose
    190 Ramsey Run Road
    Indiana PA 15701

  7. Sylvain Trudeau January 25, 2015 5:45 pm

    Is smart pop dated best by Feb2011 still be okay to pop and eat

  8. Sylvain Trudeau January 25, 2015 7:11 pm
  9. Marc January 25, 2015 7:12 pm

    @Sylvain Trudeau – I am sure it is safe to eat, but you probably just won’t enjoy it. The kernels, those that pop anyway, are likely to be less then fluffy.

  10. G Collins May 31, 2015 7:52 pm

    I’m finding the same thing. Orville’s popping corn just isn’t working for me anywhere. The kernels are all coming out small and “spongy”. I’m going to have to try another brand.

  11. Flora March 8, 2016 9:32 am

    I cannot find the expiry date of the Orville redenbacher’s original popcorn. However the batch number s U17A1. Is this product still safe to eat now March 8, 2016?

  12. Marc March 8, 2016 10:32 am

    @Flora – Realistically I don’t think popcorn ever gets “unsafe” to eat, just unpleasant. I suspect you can hit the Orville RedenBacher site to figure out how to translate the code but your experience is going to be that, the older the kernels get, the less robust they become.

    They will lose moisture over time and you’ll find that they are much less fluffy and many more than usual will only partially pop or won’t pop at all.

    Not too long ago I unwittingly popped some 10-15 year old popcorn and it was… uninspired. I did try some and it tasted OK but it was mostly husks and kernels.

    Popcorn should be fun, if it were me I’d have a backup bottle of new popcorn ready to go and if a batch of the old stuff doesn’t look great then discard it along with the remainder of the bottle and cook yourself up some great fresh popcorn. The cost is next to nothing and your enjoyment is worth it.

  13. Linda L. Alonzo April 20, 2016 7:21 pm

    I was a die hard Redenbacher White popcorn purchaser/fan. However the last few times the corn has been stale if it popped at all. Moving on to another brand.

  14. Marc April 21, 2016 10:02 am

    @Linda L. Alonzo – I think there is somewhat of a quality control issue that strikes now and then. Or maybe your containers have gone past their “Best by” dates? I posted a follow-up ( http://marc-bourassa.com/2010/12/24/orville-is-back-and-bursting ) where I’ve been very pleased ever since going back. I’m thrilled because even at their best the other popcorn brands were only OK in my book.

  15. Tom Hildreth May 23, 2016 1:24 pm

    May 2016 – after the 2nd 45 oz. container of Original Orville Redenbacher popcorn (purchased at different stores – one white and one yellow) both only filled 1/2 of the typically full popcorn bowl with a lot of husks and small popped kernels. It is obvious that either Orville’s QA testing and batch approval has been discontinued, or management knowingly made the decision to sell the poor quality popcorn at the same original premium price apparently not concerned about damaging their product’s reputation or living up to their advertisements of 3 cups more per serving!

    Orville Redenbacher’s customer service can forget the $3.00 of coupons.

  16. Gerald Franssen October 19, 2016 10:28 am

    I have been eating Movie.Theater Butter for many years. Always good. Now the
    Last two boxes of the Classic Bag tastes like a raw pea. Terrible flavor and after taste. What is going on? I had to throw both boxes away.

  17. judith sweetay November 4, 2016 8:39 pm

    recently i purchased a box of 6 orville redenbachers pop up bowl movie theater popcorn. I was very disappointed. It burned no matter what time i used and even though it burned there were at least a few tablespoons of unpopped kernels. Each time i would try a different setting and the same thing kept happening except with less time it wouldnt burn. the bowls are almost dripping with “butter” and no matter what we would get steam burns. we had to pour it a bowl because the bags were so gross.

  18. Paul G June 20, 2017 10:46 am

    Have purchased several Orville raw kernel containers over last two years. All poor quality. Little difference between theirs and the cheaper brands. Liked the smaller kernel variety offered online..can’t think who sells it off hand. Better quality all around.

  19. Derek July 28, 2017 3:26 pm

    @Carol Walker – i just had the same thing happen to me with the last 2 boxes expiration date oct 17 2017

  20. Ramona August 20, 2017 12:00 am

    I used to buy their popcorn all of the time too. But lately I have found it doesn’t pop well and is awful. It seems like since it’s been bought out by ConAgra foods it hasn’t been the same. I started buying Pop secret brand because their popcorn pops up so nice and big and isn’t as greasy and doesn’t have as much corn hulls.

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