CornNuts – The Interesting History of One of America’s Favorite Snack Foods

CornNuts – The Interesting History of One of America’s Favorite Snack Foods

Every time I crunch into one of the freakishly large kernels I think I am going to break a tooth.

But I don’t and I find myself reaching into the bag for another handful.

CornNuts are perhaps the most surprising popular snack food in America. And they actually have an interesting story. Grab yourself a bag and I will tell you about it.

Where In The World Do They Find Corn That Big

Peru by way of Salina Valley, CA, by the way. But we’ll get to that shortly.

Albert Holloway first sold fried, salted whole kernals of corn in the 1930’s by the name of Olin’s Brown Jug Toasted Corn (don’t you just love old-timey product names?) He made the snack, which he quickly renamed the more familiar CornNuts, from common Texas field corn.

Then, in one of those moments that change the world, one day shortly before World War II, Mr. Holloway saw an article in the local paper about a corn in Peru that grew kernels bigger than a quarter.

The corn was called Cuzco gigante and was raised by farmers 9,000 feet up in the rugged Andes mountains. You can still see it served cooked in Peru and in Peruvian restaurants in America.

It didn’t take Holloway long to make a deal and start importing the corn to make his CornNuts. But prices were high and supplies always short so he tried growing the corn domestically. Problem was no one could figure out how to do it.

Enter Donald Shaver, a plant breeder in Illinois. He heard about the corn growing problem and contacted Holloway to offer a deal. If CornNuts would fund his ongoing research he would work exclusively on the project. In 1963 Shaver finally cracked the code, so to speak. Seems it was the climate that was the problem and that led them to Salinas Valley in central California near Monterrey. It has an almost perfect match to the native growing region and the corn thrived. It pays to have a large country to work with.

CornNuts shifted all production to California and the rest is history.

Go ahead and grab another handful.