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Kansas popcorn farmer pitching product to Sam’s Club

Posted at 8:03 AM, Jun 29, 2022

OLATHE, Kan. — The drive from Princeton, Kansas, to Bentonville, Arkansas, isn’t that long, but Bob Ralph will feel like he’s worlds away from his corn farm when he pitches his popcorn to one of the world’s largest retailers.

“It would be huge, it would probably put us on the map is how I’d say that,” explained Ralph, who goes by Farmer Bob.

Wednesday, Farmer Bob will pitch his Princeton Popcorn kernels to buyers from Walmart’s wholesale branch Sam’s Club. The retail giant invited Ralph and about 1,200 other entrepreneurs to its “open call.” By the end of the event, Sam’s Club could strike a deal to sell 8-pound bags of Ralph’s popcorn kernels in its stores.

So far Ralph’s popcorn has sold well online through sites like Amazon. It is also available in a select number of HyVees and Consentino’s grocery stores around Kansas City. But Ralph believes getting his product on the shelves of a nationwide brick and mortar retailer is essential, even in an increasingly digital world.

“Customers are very visual, especially with popcorn,” Ralph said. “For instance, if we’re in Sam’s Club, popping popcorn, it’s almost a sure sale because you hit every single sense a person has.”

Walmart’s open call focuses on American-made products this year as the retailer focuses on a 10-year project to invest billions of dollars in products from the USA. Ralph believes part of that strategy is to better control the supply chain, which has seen recent disruptions particularly on the international stage.

“You can’t get more American-made than Princeton Popcorn Company. The seeds are produced in Nebraska. I plant them in Kansas, then raise the crop. We package here in Olathe, Kansas, using American-made packaging,” Ralph pointed out.

Princeton Popcorn is a special variety, which Ralph says pops into a perfect mushroom-like shape. Ralph didn’t start farming until roughly five years ago. Now he hopes to strike a deal with one of the world’s largest companies.