Ethanol drives popcorn prices thru the roof

In the coming weeks and months, it could cost you more to go to the movies. No, the price of a ticket isn't going up again. But if you like a little popcorn with your flick, you may have to shell out a few more kernels from your wallet to buy it. And the reason may surprise you. It has nothing to do with the tasty morsels and everything to do with ethanol.

The demand for one of the main ingredients that helps create the lower cost and more environmentally friendly fuel has soared, and that's led to an increase in orders for corn across North America and especially in the U.S., where most of the world's popcorn supply is grown. As demand goes up, so does the price, rising more than 40 percent since 2006. The result – suppliers are being charged more for it and they're passing those costs along to you.

That means the salty snack could wind up costing you more whether you go to the movies or simply make a bowl or microwave a package while watching a flick at home. The Popcorn Board – and yes there really is such an entity – estimates 30 percent of all munching goes on in cinemas, while 70 percent happens at home. But no matter where you eat it, there's a good chance you'll be paying more for the privilege.

"I think (ethanol is) going to have a uniform effect on all geographical areas that produce popcorn," believes Dennis Kunnemann of AK Acres Popcorn, a company that purchases, processes and sells the kernels to retailers. "This year, we've paid the highest price ever that I've contracted for, 13 cents a pound," compared with 9 cents per pound in 2006. Some companies, like the makers of Jolly Time, have also hiked prices, but have held off on its microwave brand waiting to see where the market's going. But if it goes where analysts expect, they may not wait long.

All of which means if you're going to see a so-called 'popcorn movie' this summer, the real eye popping drama may not be on the screen. It could wind up being shown on the price board at the concession stand. City News

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