Midwest Magic!

There’s something about the Midwest. The fresh air, the farmland, the work ethic. It’s magic!

 

Recently some of that Midwest Magical Pixie Dust flew Black Jewell’s way and we had the opportunity to pitch our products to the Walmart buying team through their Open Call initiative. Walmart is focused on increasing US Jobs and has committed to spend $350 Billion on items grown, made, or assembled in the US. The Open Call initiative creates an opportunity for entrepreneurs with such products to meet with buyers when they generally struggle to get an audience with Walmart.  More than 4,300 small and medium sized businesses applied for the chance to pitch their products and only 1,000 businesses were officially invited to pitch during Open Call. Black Jewell was 1 of the 1,000!

 

Check out our 30 second pitch video for our Microwave Natural product!

 

 

Black Jewell fits the bill for ALL criteria of grown, made, or assembled in the US. First and foremost, we are a small business located in the heart of the Midwest (Columbus, IN) and we try our best to keep our farmers, suppliers, and vendor partners in the Midwest as well.

Grown

Our Heirloom and Heritage Corns are grown in Indiana and Illinois by 4th and 5th Generation Family Farmers. These family farmers are committed to caring for the land they love and use regenerative farming practices to keep the land fertile for future generations.

Made

Our sellable products are ‘made’ or packaged by Midwest copackers located in Indiana and Michigan. These partners are experts in their fields of manufacturing and offer quality jobs within their local communities.

Assembled

Our orders are ‘assembled’ or fulfilled by a partner in Indianapolis who manages our finished goods inventory storage, order fulfillment, and logistics components. By keeping our production and fulfillment geographically close, we are limiting our carbon footprint.

 

We were honored to participate in Walmart’s Open Call showcasing products grown, made, or assembled in the US. We were excited for the opportunity to offer The Better Popcorn to more folks through Walmart stores and share some Midwest Magic!  We will continue to live by the principles that earned us the invitation, even if an opportunity does not pan out with Walmart.

 

Keep Popping!

Kate Childs, VP Sales & Marketing

 

Photo credit: Alice & Wonder

Buy the Banner: https://aliceandwonder.com/products/midwest-magic-canvas-banner


Popcorn for Breakfast?

No, we aren’t trying to start a new Popcorn-for-Breakfast trend, but we did offer a taste to the local Indianapolis WISHTV Weekend Daybreak anchor, Brenna Donnelly, bright and early on a Saturday morning. Thanks to our membership with Indiana Grown, an organization highlighting Indiana based farmers and foods, we had the opportunity to chat about popcorn with Brenna on live TV (twice!) at 6:40am and 7:40am and showcase our BRAND NEW packaging across the entire line!

 

Did you sleep in? That’s ok you can watch it now!

 

 

 

We recently completed a packaging update to our entire line of Kernel, Microwave, and Pre-Popped Popcorn. With this refreshed look, we are bringing to the forefront the difference in our popcorn… the BLACK CORN and highlighting all the benefits the corn brings to your popcorn snacking experience.

 

 

The new packaging features the new tagline The Better Popcorn. Better Taste. Better For You. to articulate the differences the BLACK CORN brings to each snack. We’ve expanded on why the popcorn Tastes Better and is Better For You on the back or side panels of each package for curious consumers who want the details, but I’ll also break it down for you here:

Better Taste!

  • Heirloom Black Corn: Rare, Unique, & Small
  • Pops Bright White with Tiny Black Centers
  • Tender & Crispy Kernels
  • Richer Popcorn Taste

Better For You!

  • Non-GMO Verified
  • 100% Natural
  • More Antioxidants than Regular Popcorn
  • Thin Light Hulls that Virtually Disintegrate
  • Gluten-Free
  • Grown on Family Farms

Better For All!

  • We Support Pollinators for Healthy Ecosystems

 

New images of our BRIGHT WHITE popped corn against the black backdrop of the rest of the package play homage to our namesake and showcase the stark color difference from regular yellow corn when popped. We’ve also included the BLACK CORN cob on the Pre-Popped bags to make it abundantly clear to shoppers that this isn’t your ordinary yellow corn!

 

 

Thanks again to Indiana Grown and the WISHTV Weekend Daybreak Team for the opportunity to share Black Jewell’s Black Popcorn, The Better Popcorn, with popcorn lovers throughout the state! And don’t forget to Try The Better Popcorn for yourself by ordering online at Amazon.com.

 

Keep Popping!

Kate Childs, VP Sales & Marketing


Grandma’s Popcorn Ball Recipe

There was a time, believe it or not, when trick-or-treaters would be rewarded with homemade treats instead of store bought snacks. Some of you may remember getting these in your goody bags as you ran through the neighborhood. While it may be frowned upon nowadays, these homemade goodies were a big part of the Halloween tradition in many families. And the king of them all was the popcorn ball.

Equal parts sweet, salty, crunchy, messy, and fun, everything about the popcorn ball is fantastic. As a kid, I would look forward to my Grandma’s popcorn balls all year. So, as we were getting the candy and costumes this year I decided to pull out my Grandma’s old recipes and whip up a batch of these old-fashioned sweets.

As I gathered the ingredients it was immediately obvious this wasn’t going to be a healthy recipe. I’m no dietitian, but if I had to guess each one of these balls has something like 4,000 calories. I rationalized this with the fact Halloween only comes once a year and soldiered on.

You are going to need about 12 cups of popped Black Jewell Popcorn for this recipe, and it needs to be unsalted and unbuttered. I used Original Black Kernels popped on the stovetop, but you could definitely use an air popper, or just grab some No Salt/No Oil Microwave Popcorn and don’t worry about it. As for the rest of the ingredients, the only change I made was that I didn’t have any table salt, so I used some Pink Himalayan Sea Salt instead. I don’t think it made a noticeable difference in the end product, but I doubt my Grandma had pink salt in mind when she wrote this recipe down.

Start by adding your margarine to a medium sized pot over medium heat. Let it melt down, then add your powdered sugar, marshmallows, corn syrup, and salt.

Bring it to a boil while stirring constantly and let it boil for about 2 minutes. Then remove it from the heat and stir in your vanilla and baking soda. After they’re all mixed in pour it immediately over your popcorn.

Now comes the fun part. You need to make sure every piece of popcorn is coated, and the easiest way to do that is with your hands. What I did was take a couple of plastic sandwich bags, spray them with cooking spray, and wore them like gloves. Worked like a charm.

Once you have your popcorn mixture packed firmly into ball-ish shapes set them on wax paper, or plastic wrap and let them cool. Then you can wrap them however you like (I opted to just wrap them in plastic wrap like Grandma did), and enjoy.

Overall, this was a fun recipe to make, and it’s a great one to make with the kids. The taste really brought me back to being a kid again. However, anything can be improved upon. Try adding chocolate chunks, some cinnamon, or putting it on a stick and dipping it in caramel. The possibilities are endless. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 12 Cups Popped Black Jewell Popcorn
  • 1 Cup Marshmallows
  • 1 1/2 Cups Powdered Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup Light Corn Syrup
  • 1/4 Cup Margarine
  • 1/4 TSP Salt
  • 1/4 TSP Baking Soda
  • 1/2 TSP Pure Vanilla Extract

 


On The Road with Black Jewell – Making Great Products

Have you ever wondered exactly what it takes to make the best popcorn products available? Obviously, it all starts with our unique, colorful kernels. But, have you ever thought about all of the work that goes into getting those kernels from the farmer to your store? For example, all of the work that goes into designing, and producing, the materials to package our Black Jewell products? Not to mention the actual packaging and shipping. It’s a lot.

You may have read my previous blogs from my adventures travelling to food shows or meeting with store representatives. However, I also spend a good bit of time on the road either at our popcorn plant or at various supplier locations to ensure every kernel of Black Jewell Popcorn you pick up at the store is up to our standards.

Microwave Cartons

Recently, I was in southern Indiana with our microwave carton vendor for what is called a “press check.” This is basically the set-up process for the large printing presses that print the cartons. The press check is used to verify that all the colors are the way we want them. It isn’t unusual for the process to take several passes and color adjustments to get it just right.

We got started very early in the morning (I had to meet our supplier at 7:00 am), and, as expected, we spent quite a bit of time on the press check. But, after a couple of hours, and several passes, we dialed it in. The end result was perfect. These cartons are now at our microwave packaging facility, also in southern Indiana, and will soon be filled.

New Product, New Look

We’ll talk about this in a separate post, but I had to share the exciting news from this past week when we started production of a new Null Hull ready-to-eat item! Introducing…..Butter!

To those of you who are familiar with our current Null Hull products, this might be a bit of a shock for you. But with adding a new product to the Null Hull line, we thought it was a great opportunity to phase in a new look for our Null Hull bags. I think they look great, what are you opinions? Let us know on Facebook & Twitter!

Fill, Pack, Ship

To fill these bags, our unique kernels are popped in what is essentially a very large hot air popper. Next, the appropriate seasoning is added in very controlled amounts. With the start of a new item like our New Null Hull Butter flavor, we spend considerable time with food ingredient specialists ensuring the flavor is what we want, and the profile is matching our nutritional label.

As with most, the day starts really early. I was at the production facility in Grand Rapids, MI at 6:30 am for the start-up, and soon we had the butter flavor dialed in and bags started rolling off the machine. Our ready-to-eat popcorn bags basically come as rolls of printed film that are filled and sealed quickly by the packaging machine. You can see the bags as they’re filled, sealed, and being dropped to a rotating carousel in the picture below. Experienced workers then grab the bags from the carousel to fill our cases and stack them on pallets for shipping.

Staying Focused

With Black Jewell continuing to grow, our supplier and production base has as well. In fact, depending on the final product we are looking for, we may utilize facilities across the Midwest! Needless to say, this keeps us very busy working to make sure we have the right materials, in the right place, at the right time to ensure success. Being a smaller company, efficiency and supply chain are incredibly important, and we’re always evaluating our processes to see what we can do to get Black Jewell products from the farm, to your kitchen with as few steps as possible.

Where To Find Us Next

What’s next? Well, I’ll be visiting another possible production facility in Houston, TX very soon. Then it’s back on the road to spread the Black Jewell story, our new Family Farm Grown brand, and Null Hull, among all of our classic popcorn offerings when I attend a food show in Amarillo, TX!

I’ll make sure to catch up with you after the Amarillo show! In the meantime, don’t forget to tell your local grocer you want them to carry Null Hull!

-Barry

(Barry Johnson, President & COO of Black Jewell, regularly attends industry events, shows, expos, conventions, and so on to promote Black Jewell popcorn and spread the story of our unique kernels.)


On The Road with Black Jewell – KeHE Holiday Show

We were back on the road for the KeHE Holiday Show which was held on June 12-13 at the Minneapolis Convention Center. KeHE is one of the largest distributors of natural and specialty food items in the U.S. and they happen to be our largest distributor among the several we utilize to get our products to stores. Many of Black Jewell’s retailers across the U.S are serviced through KeHE, including chains such as Publix and Albertson’s-Safeway. In addition to the chains, KeHE also helps us get our products into numerous independent retailers.

About the KeHE Holiday Show

A distributor show is very different from an industry trade show like Sweets & Snacks or Expo West. A distributor show is very much a “selling” show. So booth set-ups are less about the “story of Black Jewell,” but are more about the brand and the products. Order taking at this show is very structured, with KeHE providing each vendor an iPad pre-loaded with items, pricing, and various options for entering promotions. Shows like this are a lot more work than typical trade shows as well. We even attended training sessions the day before the show to make sure we were fully versed in the use of the iPad and how we enter orders. It was important training as we were taking orders from existing customers, and doing our best to attract new retailers.

Showtime

Black Jewell was in a standard 10×10 booth highlighting our brands and products. Because this was a selling show, we also set-up and showed some of our floor displays available to retailers. The photo below shows our booth set-up at the show.

The KeHE Holiday Show is just like the other shows we attend in one way, however. Because once it opens the activity is constant, and we have the opportunity to talk to a lot of retailers, and present our brands to a lot of people in a very short period of time. We also sampled our new Null Hull ready-to-eat popcorn in both Sea Salt and White Cheddar flavors.

Introducing Family Farm Grown

Another great part of the show was the unveiling of our new Family Farm Grown brand of popcorn items. Family Farm Grown is focused on the multi-generational family farmers who grow our popcorn, and makes letting consumers know where their food comes from a central focus. On the Family Farm Grown website you can read their stories, see where their farms are located, and view pictures from the planting season.

A selection of the Family Farm Grown brand of popcorn products at our booth at the KeHE Holiday Show 2017

As KeHE is our first distributor to come on board, we thought it was a great time to unveil the new brand. We’ll be bringing the Family Farm Grown brand to KeHE in August when we participate in the New@KeHE program.  This will helps us market the introduction of new items to retailers with some aggressive promotions.

Wrapping Up

As we follow up on contacts made during the show, we have some encouraging prospects for our Family Farm Grown brand.  For example, one large retailer in Texas has expressed serious interest, and plans to bring the brand into their stores.  As for Black Jewell Popcorn, our sales at this show far exceeded our expectations, and were much higher than last year’s show!  So the growth of Black Jewell continues.

Where To Find Us Next

Our next show will take us to Amarillo, Texas in August for a 1-day show with a possible new distributor for Black Jewell Popcorn called Affiliated Foods.  This distributor has strong interest in making our popcorn available to their over 500 stores located in the Southwest. We’ll also be attending the Take Steps for Crohn’s and Colitis event this Sunday at Victory Field in Indianapolis, IN.

Keep following the blog to see where I’ll pop up next!

-Barry

(Barry Johnson, President & COO of Black Jewell, regularly attends industry events, shows, expos, conventions, and so on to promote Black Jewell popcorn and spread the story of our unique kernels.)


On The Road With Black Jewell – Sweets & Snacks

About Sweets & Snacks

On May 23-25, Black Jewell Popcorn exhibited at the Sweets & Snacks Expo in Chicago. With over 800 vendors covering approximately 4 acres of exhibit space, Sweets & Snacks is a “must attend” event for the food industry. This year marked the 20th anniversary of the show and was attended by over 17,000 people. For Black Jewell Popcorn, after a successful debut in 2016, this marked our 2nd time exhibiting at the event.

What do attendees see at the show?  Well, Sweets & Snacks pretty much sums it up.  From the largest candy and chocolate companies like Hershey, M&M/Mars, and Wrigley, to jerky, snack bars, and, of course, popcorn. Actually, there were over 80 popcorn companies at the expo this year! Can you believe it? That means 1 in every 10 vendors at the show was showing and sampling some form of popcorn.

Showtime

Black Jewell Booth Setup
Finished booth setup for the 2017 Sweets & Snacks Expo!

Black Jewell set-up shop in a 10×10 booth that highlighted all of our brands and items. Once the expo opened I had non-stop activity, and, because you never know when a large company buyer might come by, I was in the booth presenting the entire time. To most people, 3 solid days of being on your feet presenting your product repeatedly sounds awful. But, honestly, it was a lot of fun (though I did go to bed exhausted every night). I met tons of great people, spread our story, and got a chance to watch their reactions after tasting the difference of Black Jewell.

As usual, our most popular popcorn was our Original Black heirloom popcorn. Seems word of our unique popcorn that starts as a small black kernel and pops up pure white, with a crunchy texture, is getting out to more and more people. Plus, we were sampling our new Null Hull ready-to-eat popcorn in both Sea Salt and White Cheddar flavors. It was close but I think more people opted for the White Cheddar at this particular show. We were in very close proximity to some other popcorn companies handing out samples and it was always very satisfying to get a response from someone who happened to be trying our Null Hull along with someone else’s popcorn. Responses of “wow,” and “oh wow,” and “wow, just wow” are not uncommon. Of course, if you have eaten our popcorn, you know this already.

Stacking Up

Some of you probably wonder how a company like Black Jewell could gain attention at a show this large, with so many large companies presenting, and such a large number of popcorn options. Well, here’s an interesting stat. The folks who run the show tell the exhibitors in advance how many attendees searched for their brand, and rank you overall and in your category. Black Jewell ranked 144th overall out of the over 800 companies in terms of attendee interest in the brand and we ranked 20th out of the over 80 popcorn brands in attendance!  So, yeah…I’d say we did pretty good.

After the show, we started conversations with some new national retailers who recognize the difference of our popcorn, and it’s something they believe their customers will be interested in. We also met with some of our existing retailers, who have been a huge help spreading the popularity of our products. In fact, just after the show one of our retailers placed an order with us that will represent our largest order of the year so far! So, the growth of Black Jewell continues.

Where To Find Us Next

Now we are getting ready for the Holiday Show with our largest distributor, KeHE.  We will be in Minneapolis on June 12-13, 2017 telling our story, and sampling our popcorn for buyers.

Keep following the blog to see where I’ll pop up next!

-Barry

(Barry Johnson, President & COO of Black Jewell, regularly attends industry events, shows, expos, conventions, and so on to promote Black Jewell popcorn and spread the story of our unique kernels.)


The Importance of Antioxidants

More Antioxidant Power Than Any Other Brand

Like most people, you have probably heard a lot in the past few years about antioxidants and how important they can be to your health. You can’t pick up a magazine, turn on the radio, or watch a Morning Talk Show without someone touting the benefits of an antioxidant rich diet. However, unlike some of the other things the media talks about, the power of antioxidants has real science behind it.

Antioxidants fight Free Radicals in your body. These come from disruptions in natural oxidation processes, the foods you eat, and even the air you breathe. If left unchecked they can cause damage to your cells, and even to your DNA. Antioxidants neutralize these free radicals, preventing them from causing any damage.

The best sources of antioxidants are plant-based foods, and naturally dark colored fruits and vegetables have the highest concentration of specific antioxidant compounds. For example, the unique dark color of Black Jewell Original Black kernels make them rich in both polyphenols and anthocyanins (an antioxidant flavonoid). In fact, our Original Black kernels have over 80 mg of these antioxidants combined, per serving (more than any other popcorn on the market)!

We always try to make the healthiest decisions for our families, and one of the easiest is to replace unhealthy items with healthier alternatives. The antioxidant power of our Original Black kernels is just one more reason why Black Jewell is the smart choice for you and your loved ones.


Soil Temperature & Waiting for the Optimal Conditions

When it Comes to Popcorn, Patience is a Virtue

As the weather starts to get warmer, and the sun shines a bit longer, we all start feeling a little impatient. We want to get outside. Maybe you’ve thought all winter about your garden. We have too. Only on a much bigger scale. But a little patience now will get you big rewards later.

Here in the Heartland, Black Jewell grows the World’s Finest Heritage Popcorns, weather can change in an instant. Young corn shoots are incredibly susceptible to frost damage. Talk to any farmer in the area and they’ll tell you a horror story about a late season snow that wiped out an otherwise healthy young crop. So it is important to wait until after all chance of cold snaps and below freezing night have passed.

Our family farmers take great pride in their crops. They are out in the fields every day checking the conditions. Much like other corn, ideally you want a soil temperature around 60°F maintained for several days. They are also looking for a soil PH of 6.0, a high nitrogen content, and soil which is moist, but not too wet. Things aren’t quite there yet, with soil temperatures of only 54°F,and some recent heavy rains, but we’re getting close. Very, very close.

Remember though, while our farmers have to wait to get into the fields and start planting, you get to enjoy delicious Black Jewell popcorn year round. Lucky you.


What makes Original Black so special?

It’s All About The Kernels

The difference between Black Jewell kernels is obvious from even the quickest glance. Unlike the typical yellow or white popcorn you see loaded on your shelves at the local supermarket, the vibrant colors of our popcorn varieties stick out. Our most popular kernel, and the one which is the most striking, is our Original Black. But is there a real difference between our heritage black popcorn and the standard yellow corn you’re used to, or is the difference only hull deep? To answer this question, and to truly understand the amazing differences between the two, we need to start at the beginning.

Almost all of the popcorn grown (around 95%) is of the yellow variety, but why is that?  Why does every major popcorn brand use, essentially, the exact same corn? Well, like most fruits and vegetables you’ll find in your local supermarket, popcorn has been bred over the years to be easy to grow and harvest, store for long periods of time, and look a certain way. Yellow popcorn kernels are very large, have thick hulls, and pop very big and dense. Just like with mass-produced tomatoes, this selective breeding is often done at the sacrifice of flavor. As anyone who has ever grown tomatoes in their home gardens can verify.

On the opposite end of the spectrum are our Original Black kernels. This heirloom strain was all but forgotten before Black Jewell began growing it to sell to local markets in 1963. Unlike the common yellow corn, our Original Black kernels are very small, and have a thin, light hull which disintegrates when popped. This means no more pesky hulls getting stuck in your teeth. They also create smaller, flakier pieces of popcorn with a slight crunch and a huge flavor.

Make sure to tell your local grocer to carry Black Jewell Original Black kernels. Once you’ve tasted the difference we’re sure you won’t be able to go back to the typical, boring yellow corn you’re used to.