Have you ever wondered why Boy Scout popcorn sells for such high a price? Averaging $20+ a box, BSA popcorn sales may appear to just be a greedy cash grab, but having been a Boy Scout myself, I’ll give you the inside scoop of how the high cost is actually broken down.
Why is Boy Scout popcorn so expensive? Boy Scout popcorn is expensive because it provides a high-profit way for scouts to fundraise. Trail’s End (the brand of popcorn), the National Boy Scout council, BSA troop and individual boy scout each receive a cut of the profits, requiring the selling price of the popcorn to be very high. However, the real reason why scout popcorn sells for such high prices is that it’s purchase is typically thought of as a donation towards Scouting.
If you’re ever in the position of buying Scoiting popcorn, I’m sure you’d also want to know how much of the money you’re spending actually goes to the scout standing in front of you. How are the proceeds broken down? Why sell popcorn? Keep reading for an answer to all of these questions and more.
How Much Do Boy Scouts Make On Popcorn Sales?
If you’ve ever been in Scouting, you may know the feeling of trying to pitch a $20 box of popcorn to an obviously uncomfortable parent who’s beginning to eye the exits for a quick escape. Boy Scout popcorn is notoriously expensive, but for good reason.
This extremely high-margin snack provides around 70% of its proceeds towards Scouting, making the actual manufacturers cost of the item about 1/3 of its selling price. For instance, a 9 oz box of White Cheddar Cheese Corn selling for $20 has an actual donation rate of around $14 towards local scouting.
Typically, BSA nationals collects between 30% and 35% of the proceeds while the troop and scout together can receive between 35% and 40%. This commission structure can differ based on the total dollar value of popcorn sold. The manufacturer, Trail’s End, consistently receives around 30% to cover their retail price.
The Scout themselves receive between 2% and 8% of the total sale price of the popcorn as an Amazon gift card, based on the total amount sold. This amount increases as their total increases. For instance, if they sold $1000 in popcorn, they were earn 4.5% of that as a $45 Amazon gift card. Additionally, on the $1000 profit, the troop would earn 35% or $350 and typically give the scout 30% of that, around $120, as a credit into the scout’s troop account.
Personally, I thought this was a fair breakdown. I used the money that went into my Scouting account to pay for camps and other activities. Then, towards the end of my Scouting career, I emptied the account to purchase supplies for my Eagle Scout project which involved the beautification of an elementary school. None of the money that I received was used for activities outside of Scouting, which is typical for these kinds of funds in most troops. The Amazon gift card, while serving as a nice incentive, is typically not the reason why Boy Scouts sell popcorn.
Why Do Boy Scouts Sell Popcorn?
In my own experience, selling popcorn was an exciting way of learning how to communicate value to others. Not all scouts understand this, but to sell popcorn well you need to know your customer. Those who are buying from you aren’t doing it because they’re popcorn fanatics who love to pay $20 for a $7 box — they’re doing it because you’re cute and they want to support the Boy Scouts. Selling popcorn is a way for scouts to gain this sort of experience without the risk that typically comes with starting a business.
Those who are buying from you aren’t doing it because they’re popcorn fanatics who love to pay $20 for a $7 box — they’re doing it because you’re cute and they want to support the Boy Scouts.
Moreover, selling popcorn teaches scouts how to speak to others, set a plan, and put in the necessary work to accomplish their goals. Being creative and entrepreneurial is a central theme in Scouting. Whether it’s on a 50 mile backpacking trip or within the community, a scout must remain steadfast and determined in order to succeed. From the challenge and uncertainty of selling popcorn, a scout begins to build important lifelong skills.
If you’re a scout or parent of a scout who’s trying to sell popcorn, check out this video on a few helpful tips for popcorn-sale success:
It’s not a perfect system, but I personally believe that Boy Scouts selling overpriced popcorn does a lot more good than anyone would reasonably expect. From teaching young people life lessons, to providing money to fund community service projects, it seems almost like a bargain to provide that sort of value for only $20. Plus, you get to eat some pretty good popcorn. But what do you think? Be sure to let me know your opinion by leaving a comment down below.
What Is It Like To Sell Popcorn As A Boy Scout?
From planning the best way to approach your customers, to standing outside grocery stores asking people to buy from you, there’s a lot of work involved in selling popcorn. I was able to experience, firsthand, how rejection was a major part of the game. However, the experience taught me three valuable takeaways that I still use in my life today:
- People mainly care about what you can do for them
- “I didn’t succeed” is far better than “I wish I had tried”
- There are no failures, only opportunities to learn
My first takeaway is that you should always examine what you are providing for the other person. In this case, not only did I provide them with popcorn in return for their money, I also made them feel significant by explaining to them how the benefits of their donation would impact scouting as well as their own community.
My second takeaway is the importance of doing things which are uncomfortable. My greatest regrets from selling popcorn are the people who I’ve been too afraid to approach. Now, I resolve to always at least try to do what scares me — and more often than not, the effort pays off.
My final takeaway was that every missed sale brought me one step closer to the next success. By learning from my mistakes and looking at each failure as an opportunity to discover what wouldn’t work, I developed a mindset in which I could constantly improve!
Every scout’s experience selling popcorn will differ, but these 3 takeaways are the keys to making the best of any troop fundraiser. From overcoming rejection to connecting with customers, the experience of selling popcorn will teach important mindsets and skills that a scout will be able to use for the rest of their lives. For a deep dive into mindsets which allow a young person to make the most of their time in scouting, check out this article.
While at first glance the prices of Boy Scout popcorn appear unreasonable, they actually are that high for a purpose. Not only do the proceeds support BSA Nationals and the scouting troop, but also fund the activities of individual Boy Scouts. Although each scout is not making a huge profit on the popcorn they sell, they are still learning valuable skills that they can apply for the rest of their lives. By purchasing popcorn to support these scouts, you are also supporting your community.
Next time a scout comes knocking on your door, please don’t give them some excuse about how you’re not interested in their overpriced popcorn. Instead, try asking them for their spiel and let them practice speaking to a stranger for a little bit. Smile, thank them — then just buy the damn popcorn. You can feel good about supporting your community and making a kid’s day.
In life, we often get what we give. Use that as your reason for buying expensive popcorn the next time you’re asked to by some enthusiastic Boy Scout. If you liked this article or agree with it’s message, be sure to share it with your friends! Leave a comment down below with your own experiences of Boy Scout popcorn sales. As always, I wish you all the best until next time.