Popcorn company succeeds

New silos are popping up all over the Karoo in central South Africa nowadays. And the name proudly displayed on most of these silos is GSI – the largest manufacturer of grain storage equipment in the world.

When you visit Biggi Brands, manufacturer and distributor of popcorn, just outside Hopetown in the Northern Cape province to purchase popcorn, you will also see a big plant with the GSI logo on it. GSI and Biggi Brands’ roads crossed two years ago when Biggi realised that storage space was a problem in their process.

“We wanted to change our structure to expand our storage space and to speed up and simplify the transportation of stored popcorn to the processing plant,” said Koos de Wet, Chairman of Biggi Brands’ Board of Directors.

They increased their storage capacity from 2 400 tonnes to 7 200 tonnes. “We have added two silos from GSI, each of which can store 2 400 tonnes. In addition, we incorporated a transport system to move the popcorn directly from the silos into the processing plant,” said Koos.

Previously to this GSI facility upgrade Biggi stored popcorn in silo bags, but the corrugated steel silos are better, and their facilities are now also designed to expand further in the future. What they can add in future is a pre-cleaner for the popcorn received.

In addition, Biggi can install a CHARLY VC 15/28 R 134 transportable grain cooler from GSI at their plant. GSI demonstrated this cooler system at Biggi for two days and other farmers were invited to attend the demonstration of the first grain cooler to be tested in South Africa.

“It is important to keep popcorn free from insects for the duration of its storage period. Biggi receives popcorn from April to June, and supplies packaged popcorn for the rest of the year. Thus, we must be able to store the popcorn for a year and that is where the cooler comes in,” Koos says.

The cooler ensures the quality of the final product. It is like a fridge that keeps the grain in the silo cold. Johan Engelbrecht from GSI says another advantage of the cooler is that it retains the moisture in the popcorn.

“It is like a big air conditioner. The cooler controls the entire silo’s temperature  between 10 and 13 degrees, but we prefer 10 degrees. This prolongs the shelf life of the popcorn. When the product has reached the temperature of 10 degrees, it retains that temperature for nine months,” says Johan.

Normally the average temperature of a silo is 18 degrees and the size of the silo determines the period it takes to bring the temperature down. “GSI silos may take a week or two to lower the temperature to 10 degrees,” says Johan. Remember that a silo like this contains many tonnes of popcorn.

The cooler is powered with electricity, and it is 4 800 mm long, 2 040 mm wide and 2 280 mm high. Its frame is made of galvanised steel and it has a touchscreen control panel to control its operating speed and air pressure. The cooler can be programmed with two start and two switch off times over a 24-hour period.

All the information and data can be stored so that the farmer can check it later. The cooling system’s built-in computer continuously monitors the temperature and moisture content of the air outside the silo and adjusts its operation to achieve the desired temperature and moisture content of the grain.

Biggi Brands’ success story

Biggi Brands supplies popcorn to cinemas in South Africa, and also to large processing plants, which sell it as ready-made popcorn.

“We supply approximately 12 000 tonnes of popcorn a year, of which between 60% and 70% are exported,” said Koos.

They have warehouses in the Cape, Johannesburg and Durban. Johann Kriek, Lieb du Raan and Attie Victor started the company around 1991. “I became involved in 1998 as Managing Director; back then it was known as Bigfoot Trading,” said Koos.

In 2003, Bigfoot Trading and KOLK formed a joint venture. KOLK has since changed to OVK. The company was under the direction of Johann Kriek until May 2017, when Riel de Kock took over as Chief Executive Officer of Biggi and Orange River Popcorn. Orange River Popcorn purchases popcorn from farmers and Biggi Brands is responsible for the processing and marketing of the popcorn.

“GSI completed the construction process for us in a tight and limited time programme. They committed themselves to help if any problems were encountered, as our production should not be interrupted,” said Koos.

Koos says that world’s popcorn consumption is about 700 000 tonnes a year. He believes there is definitely room for expansion and Biggi is ready for it.

For more information about GSI’s cooling system or their other outstanding products, contact Lanus Meyer at 011-794-4455 or send her an e-mail to Also visit their website at

Johan Engelbrecht, Natasha Coleman, Riël de Kock, Carel van Heerden, Lanus Meyer, Koos de Wet, Rob Clouston and Jan-Albert Wiid at the inauguration of Biggi Brands’ upgraded facility in Hopetown. GSI did the
All Biggi Brands’s staff at the inauguration of extensions tom their plant.
Here you can see how the grain
cooler is connected to the silo to
keep the popcorn inside cool.
Koos de Wet cuts the red ribbon to declare the new upgrade at Biggi Brands’ silos opening.

Rob Clouston, Jan-Albert Wiid, Riël de Kock, Koos de Wet, Johan Engelbrecht and Carel van Heerden at the grain cooler that GSI demonstrated at Biggi Brands.

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