Walking down the large, long aisles of the convention hall lined with 650 colorful booths at the 18th annual Sweets & Snacks Expo, it was clear popcorn is hot! It was everywhere and made with a variety of ingredients beyond the usual suspects of salt, butter, cheeses, chocolates, and caramels. The healthy snack is even healthier now with flavorings from kale (!) and sriracha (a big trend overall) and unique popping techniques.
1. Quinn Popcorn Kale and Sea Salt “farm-to-bag popcorn,” which hit stores like Whole Foods and Amazon four months ago, is made with seven ingredients: non-GMO popcorn, high oleic sunflower oil, organic kale, organic carrot, onion, garlic, and sea salt. “It's made with freeze-dried organic kale powder. Four cups will give 45 percent of your daily recommended vitamin K intake, ” says Kristy Lewis, the company's CEO and co-founder. And since 4 cups is 160 calories, that sounds like a pretty good deal. [Tweet about this snack!]
2. Snacks 101 the First Baked Popcorn is even lower calorie, promising 29 calories per cup (2 less than air-popped popcorn) thanks to their popping trick. “Baking helps seal the flavor without having to use extra oil or seasoning, which means you can cut calories,” says Marc Fraum, a co-founder of Snacks 101. “This procedure also helps draw out more moisture, making it light, crisp, and crunchy—and never soft or soggy.” The kernels are baked in 100-percent pure coconut oil, which brings the saturated fat up to 7 grams for 5 cups (150 calories). Similar to Quinn's product, the overall ingredients are minimal: popcorn, pure coconut oil, and sea salt.
3. The Original Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce Popcorn from Pop! Gourmet trumped kale and baking, though, winning the 2014 Most Innovative Savory Snack Award. Some like it hot, and that's exactly what the famous rooster sauce guarantees. And just to be certain every bite offers a good kick, they add chili pepper. One ounce (about 2 cups) is 170 calories, and it's only four ingredients.
4. Popcorn Indiana All Natural Sriracha Popcorn also picked up on the hot sauce's popularity, offering a slightly lower-calorie version (2 cups is 150 calories) that also has less fat. Another big difference is that it has almost half the sodium content at only 230 milligrams compared with 430 milligrams for Pop! Gourmet's popcorn. So if you're looking to spice up snack time, this might a real treat for your tastebuds.
Which of these snacks has you most excited to dig in? Tell us in the comments below or tweet us @Shape_Magazine!