Kernel of Faith: Preferred Popcorn Celebrates Growth
Move over Indiana, the Cornhuskers are number one, not on the football field but the farm field as the top popcorn producer. And a small town company founded just 15 years ago leads the way.
"Here we are in the international headquarters," Gov. Dave Heineman said with a smile.
From Mexico to Tokyo, Israel to Beijing, Norm Krug sometimes can't believe he sends popcorn all over the world, from a town of less than 300.
He said, "What's a farmer from Chapman, Nebraska have to offer someone in Tokyo, Japan?"
"It's about relationships," Heineman said.
The governor praises Preferred Popcorn as the company celebrates its 15th anniversary and expansion.
Heineman said, "Here we are in one of the smallest communities in Nebraska, they operate in Chapman and sell all over the world, 55 different countries."
The company got off to a rocky start. The first year they raised 12 million pounds but sold only four million.
And a decade ago, they faced financial trouble. Aurora Cooperative and its 10,000 farmer-owners took a minority stake in the company.
Now Preferred Popcorn ranks in the top three nationwide.
Aurora Cooperative CEO makes it clear who leads the way. George Hohwieler said, "The face of this company is Norm Krug. He's a tireless servant leader. He's just a Nebraska corn farmer that is making a difference."
Krug's a respected leader, who calls Sen. Mike Johanns and Gov. Dave Heineman friends. And it could be said, it started with a kernel of faith.
"We're a faith based company," Krug said, saying they are based on Christian principles. "It's hard telling where He might take us. If we'd have set goals 15 years ago, I can tell you they wouldn't have been this big. We try not to limit what God might do the next 15 years."
You can find Preferred Popcorn in area stores, but the American market is saturated.
Company leaders say they re–focused ten years ago on exports, which is why you're more likely to find the Nebraska product in a movie theater in Beijing.
Krug joined Gov. Heineman on a trade mission to China last year, one of several he has taken with state leaders.
The company recently built a new office building, and added robotics to the production line.