My first job was running a small, family-owned, outdoor popcorn stand with my siblings in the Midwest. The popcorn cooked in a big kettle over a gas flame and fell to the bin below, where it was salted, then swept over holes in the metal bottom, so that any kernels that weren’t fully popped fell through into a hidden tray to be discarded. We called those half-popped kernels “old maids,” and we gave them away for free to a few customers who liked their popcorn half-popped.
As employees, we were forbidden from eating the inventory, but no such prohibition existed for the old maids. I would often eat them on the walk home at the end of my shift. I loved the salty, toasted flavor of the kernels, which were crunchy, but not hard like raw popcorn, and never seemed to stale like fully popped popcorn, even during the humid weather. I doubt that many people associate half-popped popcorn with memories of their youth, but a fair number of households have at least one member who loves the un-popped kernels that remain at the bottom of the bowl when they make popcorn at home. Now, there’s a snack product that caters to those people, called Halfpops.
Halfpops were invented by Mike Fitzgerald of Seattle, WA, who, like me, enjoys the crunchy version of popcorn. But what happens by accident in small quantities took some experimentation to make in commercial-size batches. In order to make light, fluffy popcorn, the correct balance of heat and moisture is required. This is also the case with making low-volume popcorn. Fitzgerald discovered that boiling the kernels before popping them weakens the outer shell of the kernel, reducing pressure and resulting in a smaller “explosion,” and increases the moisture content inside the shell, resulting in crunchy popcorn, rather than traditional fluffy popcorn. Halfpops are available in seven flavors:
• Aged White Cheddar
• Angry Kettle Corn
• Carmel and Sea Salt
• Butter and Sea Salt
• Brooklyn Dill Pickle
• Black Truffle and Sea Salt
• Simply Sea Salt
Halfpops are low in fat, gluten free, and nut free, making them a perfect option for snackers who are watching their weight, or suffer from nut or gluten allergies. Their similarity to roasted nuts makes them perfect for snack mixes like trail mix or Chex Mix. Furthermore, their smaller volume makes them a more practical option for snacking on-the-go. They’re available at select grocery store chains, and online from Halfpops.com, Amazon, Thrive Market, Target.com and Walmart.com. A 4.5oz-oz. package provides four servings, and costs about $2.99.
Much like with the storybook old maids for whom un-popped kernels are nicknamed, there is hidden potential to be enjoyed by those who give them a second look. The genius of the makers of Halfpops is that they saw potential in what has long been considered a waste product of the popcorn cooking process. This product is another example of the “Going Full Circle” trend – making new products from materials that might otherwise be considered waste. Their ability to tap this hidden potential drove them to develop a process to create a new popcorn snack for those of us who like what’s left after the fluffy popcorn is gone, in all the flavors we love most!