White-haired, skinny and bow-tied, Orville Redenbacher was the folksy TV pitchman for Orville Redenbacher's Gourmet Popping Corn for nearly two decades. Orville Redenbacher was "born on a small corn farm in Indiana," according to his company's biography, and he earned an agronomy degree from Purdue University in 1928. Redenbacher had a lifelong interest in popcorn, and while he became rich running a fertilizer company, he also experimented with thousands of corn hybrids, looking for one which would pop up lighter and fluffier than typical popcorn. By the 1960s he was selling popcorn out of the back of his car, and in 1971 he introduced Orville Redenbacher's Gourmet Popping Corn. Once Redenbacher began to appear in television ads for his popcorn, sales went through the roof. Redenbacher sold the company to corporate giant Hunt-Wesson in 1976, and it was then became part of ConAgra in 1990, but Orville continued on as spokesman for the brand until 1995, often appearing in TV commercials with his grandson, Gary. In 1984 he published Orville Redenbacher's Popcorn Book. After his death in 1995, Time magazine called Redenbacher "the Luther Burbank of popcorn."
According to The New York Times, Orville Redenbacher was found dead in a whirlpool bathtub in his condominium, having drowned after suffering a heart attack… Hunt-Wesson (including the Redenbacher brand) was acquired by ConAgra Foods in 1990.
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