Hoping to Rid the Planet of Polystyrene Packaging, Steve Sommer Floats An A-Maize-Ingly Simple Concept
updated 10/22/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT
•originally published 10/22/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT
With just that kernel of an idea, Sommer 40, bought an old propane-powered popper for $1,700 and began filling 14-cubic-foot clear-plastic bags with the puffed produce, which he sells to both manufacturers and the general public for $15 per bag (a bit more than polystyrene nuggets). Although the FDA frowns upon food being used as a packing material, Sommer defends its biodegradability: "You want a product that's going to break down." (Popcorn-packed boxes shouldn't be stored.) To prove that claims for his product's insulating ability aren't so much hot air, Sommer boxed a raw egg and a wine glass with popcorn—then dropped them off a three-story building. Both survived.
So far, Sommer has sold less than 200 bags of Future Pop (daughter Jill, 18, and Stephanie came up with the name), but his new $12,000 electric popper can pop enough corn to bust a Bijou—80 cubic feet an hour—should demand rise. Popcorn packing dates at least as far back as World War II care packages, but Sommer has given it a higher calling. "Popcorn," says his comptroller, Phil Stevens, "is positive. How many people love polystyrene?"