Orville Clarence Redenbacher (July 16, 1907 – September 19, 1995)
was an American businessman most often associated with the brand of
popcorn that bears his name.
1 Early life
2 Business career
3 Personal life
4 Death and legacy
6 External links
Redenbacher was born in Brazil, Indiana, on July 16, 1907, to William
Joseph Redenbacher (1872-1939), a farmer, and Julia Magdalena
Dierdorff (1874-1944). He grew up on his family's farm where he
sometimes sold popcorn from the back of his car. He graduated from
Brazil High School in 1924 in the top 5% of his class. He attended
Purdue University, where he joined the agriculture-oriented Alpha
Gamma Rho fraternity and the Purdue All-American Marching Band. He
also joined the
Purdue University track team and worked at The Purdue
Exponent. He graduated in 1928 with a degree in agronomy. He spent
most of his life in the agriculture industry, serving as a Vigo County
Farm Bureau extension agent in Terre Haute, Indiana, and at Princeton
Farms in Princeton, Indiana.
He started his career selling fertilizer, but spent his spare time
working with popcorn. In 1951, he and partner Charlie Bowman bought
the George F. Chester and Son seed corn plant in Boone Grove,
Indiana. Naming the company "Chester Hybrids", they tried tens of
thousands of hybrid strains of popcorn before settling on a hybrid
they named "RedBow". This name was used due to neither Redenbacher nor
Bowman wanting all the publicity. An advertising agency, however,
advised them to use "Orville Redenbacher" as the brand name, advice
that cost them $13,000. They launched their popping corn in
1970, and Orville was suddenly everywhere. Redenbacher first
appeared on national television in 1973—long before the commercials
that featured him promoting popcorn. In an episode of the game show To
Tell the Truth, in which a panel must correctly identify a real person
from two impostors, he stumped the panelists (Kitty Carlisle Hart,
Bill Cullen, Joe Garagiola, and Peggy Cass), all of whom were shown
enjoying samples of Redenbacher's then-new novelty popping corn
flavors, including chili and curry; each of them incorrectly
identified a market research director from Virginia as the real
Orville Redenbacher. 
By the mid 1970s, Redenbacher and Bowman had captured a third of the
unpopped popcorn market. In 1976, Redenbacher sold the company to
Hunt-Wesson Foods, a division of
Norton Simon, Inc.
Norton Simon, Inc. In 1983, Esmark
purchased Norton Simon, and in 1984
Beatrice Foods acquired Esmark. In
Kohlberg Kravis Roberts
Kohlberg Kravis Roberts acquired Beatrice with the goal of
selling off businesses. In 1990, they sold the popcorn business and
other old Hunt-Wesson businesses to agribusiness giant ConAgra.
Redenbacher then moved to Coronado, California. He appeared as the
company's official spokesman, wearing a trademark outfit in public
that included horn-rimmed glasses and a bow tie. Sometimes Redenbacher
appeared in commercials with his grandson. Some customers wrote
letters asking if Redenbacher was a real person, and not an actor
(see, e.g., Bartles & Jaymes). He responded to this by appearing
on various talk shows, professing his identity. Redenbacher, in his
book, states, "I want to make it clear that I am real."
After the initial sale to Hunt-Wesson, the city of Valparaiso,
Indiana, started their first
Popcorn Festival in 1979. Celebrating the
development of Redenbacher’s popcorn in Valparaiso, the festival
featured Orville and his grandson Gary appearing several times as
grand marshals of the signature event, the
Popcorn Parade. Purdue
University granted him an honorary doctorate degree in the College of
Agriculture in 1988.
Redenbacher was married to his first wife, Corinne Rosemund Strate
(1909–1971), from 1928 until her death on May 24, 1971. He remarried
later that year to his second wife, Nina Reder, who died on May 8,
1991, at the age of 91.
Death and legacy
On September 19, 1995, Redenbacher was found dead in the
his condominium in Coronado, California. He had suffered a heart
attack and drowned. He was cremated and his ashes scattered at
sea. Redenbacher is survived by two daughters, Billie Ann Atwood of
San Jose, California, and Gail Tuminello of Valparaiso, Indiana; 12
grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.
2005 marked the 40th anniversary of the development of Orville
Redenbacher's popcorn, although the introduction of the Orville
Redenbacher's brand name came later.
Since 2006, several of Orville’s commercials from the 1970s and
1980s have aired on many channels across the United States.[citation
needed] The advertisements for the brand’s "natural" popcorn snacks
were introduced in 2008, 13 years after Redenbacher's death, and
feature a clip of him at the end.
In January 2007, a television commercial featuring a digital
re-creation of Redenbacher appeared. Redenbacher's grandson, Gary
Redenbacher, responded to questions about how he felt about the
advertisement by saying: "Grandpa would go for it. He was a
cutting-edge guy. This was a way to honor his legacy."
On September 4, 2012, Valparaiso unveiled a statue of Redenbacher at
the city's annual popcorn festival.
^ a b Thomas, Robert (September 21, 1995). "Orville Redenbacher,
Famous For His Popcorn, Is Dead at 88". The New York Times.
^ a b c d e Wieland, Phil. "Orville Redenbacher: A passion for
popcorn". The Times of Northwest Indiana. Retrieved 31 October
^ Gail Collins (December 31, 1995). "The Lives They Lived: Orville
Redenbacher;Our Inner Nerd". The New York Times. Retrieved October 12,
^ a b
Orville Redenbacher's popcorn partner shared the wealth, if not
the celebrity, Remembrances Section, Wall Street Journal, April
18–19, 2009, p. A4
Orville Redenbacher and his popcorn weren't always well-known". TV
Squad. July 2, 2009.
Orville Redenbacher's Brand History". www.orville.com. ConAgra
Foods. Retrieved 6 April 2014.
^ Bruce Horovitz (January 12, 2007). "
ConAgra revives Redenbacher for
popcorn ads". USA Today. Retrieved October 12, 2013.
^ "Statue honors popcorn king Redenbacher". Terre Haute Tribute Star
(Associated Press). September 5, 2012.
Orville Redenbacher Popcorn
Orville Redenbacher at Find a Grave
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