Tag Archives: popcorn

SkinnyPop

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I can’t say I have a hard time finding nut allergy–friendly popcorn. As I’ve recently explained, I’m decidedly not of the call-every-company-about-every-product school, and most bagged popcorns I’ve found are indeed advisory label–free. Given all that, I’ve never had much trouble finding popcorn I’m comfortable with. Which means there’s no apparent reason, then, for me to be posting about SkinnyPop. I haven’t found anything unusual, nor anything game-changing—but this stuff is made in a nut-free facility, and I happen to be addicted to it, so. Here we go.

Before I get into anything else—and believe me, I have a lot of stupid shit to get into—I should probably go through allergens, etc. So: All of SkinnyPop’s products (popped popcorn, microwave popcorn, and popcorn cakes) are free from nuts, peanuts, dairy, soy, egg, and gluten. It’s all vegan, non-GMO (big whoop…), and kosher, and it’s free from preservatives, etc., too. SkinnyPop’s marketing really tries to play it off as healthy—it’s called SkinnyPop, after all—but as you probably already know if you’ve spent any time on this blog, that has approximately nothing to do with why I’m writing about this stuff.

Anyway. It’s taken me right around 20 years of life on this planet to realize that I hate most bagged popcorns: if it isn’t too “buttery,” it’s usually way too salty, and if it’s neither, it’s almost always way too bland. I know, I know: Get off your doughy ass and pop your own goddamn popcorn, you opinionated sluggard. I know! But popcorn is, to me, exclusively a no-effort snack. If I wanted to spend 10 minutes over the stove, I’d fry an egg or make some pasta. But I don’t. When I’m in a popcorn mood, I want to go straight from the cabinet to the most-sunken corner of my couch, and then I want to immediately start shoveling that popcorn, handful by handful, into the frightening chasm that is my open mouth.

SkinnyPop's ingredients

And you know what? SkinnyPop’s original just happens to be the perfect popcorn for such shoveling. There’s no squicky “butter” flavor, nor is there an overabundance of salt. In fact, SkinnyPop’s net moderate saltiness is probably my favorite thing about it. Most pieces are (just a little) under-salted, but every few handfuls, you’ll find a perfect piece or two. Now, if every piece were so “perfect” (read: salty as fuck), a handful or two of SkinnyPop would be overwhelming. But the “rarity” of the salty bits makes those salty bits cherish-worthy, and that‘s what keeps me shoveling this stuff into my mouth: I can’t help but chase the salt.

Here, because I’m an intellectual who’s read approximately 40% of the Nicomachean Ethics (and who’s just declared a minor in philosophy—please clap), I’m compelled to go into a whole hokey-jokey thing about how SkinnyPop, with its modest saltiness that rests precisely at the mean between the relevant extremes of under- and over-salt, teaches a popcorn-related sort of temperance. (After all, you really don’t need to be excessive when you’ve got SkinnyPop showing off the perks of moderation. I’d know—I’ve tried adding salt…)

When I eat this stuff, I feel like I’m honing in on virtue. And I enjoy it—it being both the lack of over-salt and the performing of the virtuous act—so thoroughly that I’ve no choice but to conclude that I must really be virtuous. Right? (Yada yada yada. This whole Aristotle thing was actually how I was planning on opening this post, so consider yourself lucky that I’ve downgraded it to a self-conscious interlude.)

Thing is, the whole virtuous-act thing is totally negated by the fact that this popcorn is particularly suited for binge-eating, precisely because of its fixture at the mean between the relevant extremes. I can’t plow through a bag of salt-corn or keep myself chewing on the bland stuff; I need SkinnyPop’s consistent inconsistency to rope me in and keep me shoveling. And while I don’t want to want to binge-eat, I certainly do want a popcorn that compels me to. And as I sit here—on that most-sunken couch cushion, where else?—trying not to pick too much at popcorn I’m supposed to be photographing, I can say with confidence that SkinnyPop does just that.

Find it just about everywhere: Duane Reade, Walgreens, CVS, 7-Eleven, Whole Foods, Food Emporium, Gristedes, D’Agostino, Key Food, Fairway, Target…I’ll stop.

[I realize, of course, that I’ve spent this whole post on just one of a total of fourteen SkinnyPop products. That’s because I’m somewhat of a popcorn purist, so I’ve never actually tried any of SkinnyPop’s more-colorful offerings. As for the popcorn cakes…they’re fine, I guess, if you’re into that sort of thing. They’re too similar to rice cakes for my liking, but there’s nothing wrong with them, really.]

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Halfpops

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Apparently, some people have a thing for the half-popped popcorn that’s usually at the bottom of the bag. And while I’m definitely not one of those people—who are they, and what’s wrong with them?—I have to admit that Halfpops are actually all right.

Allergy information first, though. Halfpops’ exceedingly irritating FAQ clearly states that each and every one of their products is nut- and gluten-free, so that’s that, I suppose. (Seriously, though. Their FAQ is annoying as hell, as is the rest of their website. Why they insist on harping on how portable their snacks are, I have no idea. Halfpops are exactly as portable as regular popcorn—but I digress.)

Online pandering aside, Halfpops do taste okay. (Imagine a softer Corn Nut, and that’s basically a Halfpop.) As of right now, they come in seven flavors: Aged White Cheddar, Angry Kettle Corn, Caramel & Sea Salt, Butter & Sea Salt, Brooklyn Dill Pickle, Black Truffle & Sea Salt, and Chipotle BBQ. My favorite, by far, is the Black Truffle & Sea Salt—in fact, it’s the only one I’ve tried that I actually like. Unlike so many inexpensive “truffled”products, these actually have a noticeable truffle element to them—and a pleasant one, at that. I’m definitely a fan.

The worst flavor I’ve tried is probably the Caramel & Sea Salt. As soon as I opened the bag and got a whiff of those things, I knew they wouldn’t be for me—and they weren’t. “Cloying” is probably the least offensive adjective I can use to describe them—they’re way, way, way too sweet, without anywhere near enough salt to balance out the sugar, and I can say with confidence that I do not like these. Not one bit.

Somewhere toward the middle of the Halfpops spectrum are the Aged White Cheddar—which (to its credit) tastes a whole lot like Smartfood, but without all the popcorn fluff that the folks behind Halfpops insists is so undesirable—and the Butter & Sea Salt, which is a little heavy on the butter flavoring. Brooklyn Dill Pickle is okay, too, if you want to be overwhelmed with vinegar, but I…don’t, so that one’s probably another flavor I’ll have to avoid.

The problem with most of Halfpops’ flavors is simple, though: the seasoning is way too strong. Perhaps if they’d tone it down a smidge, I’d be on board—but for now, I think I’ll stick with the Black Truffle & Sea Salt. (Or, you know, regular popcorn, despite its terribly unportable nature.)

Find Halfpops at Stop & Shop, REI, and ShopRite.

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Divvies

A bag of Divvies

Another allergen-free brand—this time, decidedly without nuts, peanuts, milk, egg, or sesame. All their products are vegan, and their popcorn and chocolates are gluten-free, too. Overkill, for the nut-allergic (as I’ve said time and time again), but valuable nonetheless.

Divvies is serious about safety. They require allergen-free statements from their vendors, and they test their own products regularly to ensure they’re truly free from all they’re said to be free from. (The founder’s son has a bunch of food allergies; you can read all about the company’s story here.) So evidently, the folks at Divvies really mean it when they say their food is allergen-free.

They have a decent variety of products, too: cookies, cookie sandwiches, brownies, chocolate bars, chocolate chips, cupcakes, and popcorn. The popcorn—especially the kettle corn—is so, so good. It’s a little expensive for such a small portion ($6 for 3 oz of popcorn), but I’m telling you, it’s delicious, and you’d never know it was free of anything if you didn’t read the label.

Unfortunately, that’s where my praise ends. I’ll admit: I’ve never made it through an entire Divvies cookie sandwich—and that’s not for lack of trying. Stubborn (hopeful?) as I am, I keep buying them, but I just can’t get on board. The chocolate’s all right, and the regular cookies are certainly way better than the cookie sandwiches—but in general, Divvies makes some pretty unsatisfying stuff. (Though I should probably mention that I haven’t tried their brownies or their cupcakes. Perhaps that’s where the magic lies.)

Maybe I’d be a bit more grateful for Divvies if I had more food allergies. I really do appreciate their existence, though, and I make a point of throwing some money their way every once in a while. And like I said, their kettle corn is delicious. But overall, I’d say Enjoy Life trumps Divvies if we’re comparing overkill companies—and it isn’t a particularly close call.

Find their products at Whole Foods, Gourmet Garage, Fairway, Union Market, and a bunch of other places, too.

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Who knew Utz was nut-free?

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Quick post, because I realize safe chips and popcorn aren’t all that hard to find. But I bought some Bachman popcorn today and noticed that the bag says they’re manufactured in a nut-free facility, so I did some research, and according to Utz’s website, a whole bunch of their products are nut-free as can be:

Peanuts and other nuts are one of the most common food allergies. All of Utz’s manufacturing facilities are both peanut and tree nut free. If there is a product that we distribute that could contain peanuts or tree nuts, you will always see a separate allergen statement on each package. Refined, bleached and deodorized oils (RBD) such as peanut oil, are not considered an allergen by the FDA. Below is a list of products to avoid if you have sensitivities to peanuts and other nuts.

Utz Gourmet Caramel Popcorn Clusters
Utz Pub Mix
Utz Poker Mix
Utz Chocolate Flavored Covered Special Pretzels
Utz Chocolate Flavored Covered Bite Size Pretzels
Utz Milk and White Chocolate Flavored Covered Special Pretzels
Utz Milk Chocolate Covered Special Pretzels
Utz Butterfinger® Flavored Covered Bite Size Pretzels

Everything else, though, should be totally fine (and well-labeled, according to their FAQ). So although most of their chips are sub-par, they’re certainly an allergy-friendly company.

(Utz brands include Bachman, Zappo, Dirty, and, of course, Utz. Zappo and Dirty do use peanut oil, but it’s a highly-refined, processed peanut oil that doesn’t have any peanut protein left in it, so it’s supposedly safe for the peanut-allergic. No tree nuts, though.)

Find their products literally almost everywhere chips are sold.

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