Popcorn has always been an important part of Norm Krug’s story.
His father grew it for 40 years. To Norm, popcorn symbolizes quality time spent with family; gathered around an evening television program, enjoying a trip to the movie theater or perhaps huddled around a board game.
Norm followed in his father’s footsteps, raising popcorn on his own Merrick County farm. In 1997, he decided he wanted to do more than grow popcorn for his friends and neighbors – he wanted to grow it for the whole world. That’s when he led a group of “founding farmers” in the Chapman area to purchase a vacant popcorn plant and establish a new company: Preferred Popcorn.
For over 20 years, the Preferred Popcorn mission has remained the same: honoring God by producing high-quality products and by serving customers with integrity.
Norm credits this mission with his company’s growth and success.
Today, Nebraska leads the nation in popcorn production. Norm said growing popcorn is one way farmers in Central Nebraska are adding value to their farms. He believes that’s why the Nebraska Corn Board chose Preferred Popcorn as the recipient of their Agribusiness Appreciation Award in 2019.
“I think [the Nebraska Corn Board] recognized our desire to provide an alternative market, to add value to help promote Nebraska and Nebraska products,” he said.
In 2010, Preferred Popcorn opened a second popcorn processing plant in Indiana. The company’s family of farmers has expanded across seven states, allowing sales to increase to customers in at least 70 countries.
One of Norm’s favorite parts about the popcorn business is building relationships. He met the company’s first Indonesian client at a trade show in Las Vegas in 1998, and the company’s foreign customer base has been expanding ever since.
In reference to his international clientele, Norm is more likely to use the word “friend” than “customer.” Some of his friends from overseas live in China, Japan, Indonesia and the Philippines – just to name a few. And they visit each other often.
When the Krug family hosts international guests in Nebraska, Norm enjoys giving tours of the constantly evolving facility in Chapman. He often takes his guests to ride along with local popcorn farmers in tractors or combines.
At the Nebraska facility, corn is conditioned, processed and cleaned. From there, it’s sold to other businesses. Norm said they try to keep their sales around 50% domestic and 50% international. A portion of the company’s popcorn supply is shipped to Toluca – a town just outside Mexico City. In Toluca, the popcorn is popped, packaged and sold in nearly 15,000 retail outlets under the brand name “Slim Pop.”
Despite expansion across several states and countries, Nebraska farmers remain vital to Preferred Popcorn’s mission of creating high-quality products. According to Norm, around 60% of the popcorn processed by the company’s facilities is grown in Nebraska.
“Nebraska people are salt of the earth – and it’s a good place to do business,” he said. “It’s always good to come back to Nebraska, because of the great people we have here. The farmers are hardworking people.”