history of caramel popcorn

The History of Caramel Popcorn

Mar 12, 2024Thad Paul

Caramel popcorn is a classic treat that can be found at carnivals, ball games, and even your local supermarket. Its salty yet sweet taste lures in everyone’s sweet tooth. In fact, caramel popcorn is so popular, there has even been a National Caramel Popcorn Day established on April 6th. Yet how did this snack originate?

Caramel popcorn was invented by two brothers, Frederick and Louis Rueckheim. The duo immigrated to the United States from Germany and took residence in Chicago, Illinois. During that time, they decided to kickstart a popcorn business, purchasing candy-making equipment from a Dutch confectioner. For years, they experimented with various flavors and toppings, until they tried something that was an immediate hit. Their new product involved a mix of molasses, popcorn, and peanuts and was first sold at the 1983 Columbian Exposition. According to popular lore, when they first began selling their product, one of their customers tried it and with glee, announced, “That’s a crackerjack!” Crackerjack meant “great quality” at the time, and after that event, the name stuck.


Frederick and Louis worked hard to perfect their new recipe. Although many customers enjoyed the treat, others complained that the molasses mixture made the whole product too sticky and messy. After trial and error, they were finally able to create a molasses coating that dried quickly, saving customers from messy fingers. The secret behind this mixture still remains to be a closely guarded company secret and since 1896, has apparently only changed once.

Through the years, Cracker Jack later gained popularity through the famous song “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” which led to further experimentation with popcorn and various coatings. We're pretty sure you know the song.......

    Take me out to the ball game,
    Take me out with the crowd.
    Buy me some peanuts and cracker jack,
    I don’t care if I never get back,
    Let me root, root, root for the home team,
    If they don’t win it’s a shame.
    For it’s one, two, three strikes, you’re out,
    At the old ball game…

Nowadays, the caramel corn being sold at fairs and sporting events is usually mixed with brown sugar, corn syrup, and butter, yet molasses is still occasionally used. This mixture is blended together over a stove, and once caramelized, coated over freshly popped popcorn. The result is a sweet, savory snack that is perfect for events and get-togethers.

Popcorn has evolved drastically throughout the years, allowing us to enjoy all different types of seasonings, coatings, and flavors! Check out some of our favorite nontraditional topping ideas and let us know what you think. Even better, celebrate the history of caramel popcorn by enjoying a bag of your own today! America’s Favorite Gourmet Popcorn has a bag of Capitol Caramel and a Classic Mix that is sure to bring a smile to your face!

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