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Taste test: cheddar cheese popcorn

One of the many ad campaigns aimed at New Year's dieters suggests January might be the time to put down the candied popcorn and start counting calories. But, instead of going cold turkey, how about trying flavored popcorn without the sugary toppings? We found five brands of savory white cheddar popcorn and enlisted the help of some student journalists for a tasting. Steve Sims and his reporting class at Tampa Catholic High School sampled the snacks this week.

Kathy Saunders, Times correspondent


(out of 100)
Wise 88Smartfood 68Popcorn Indiana 58

Puffy pieces, powdery cheese and pleasant flavors made this popcorn the favorite among our student panelists. "This has the popcorn flavor but with a light cheddar topping," one judge said. "The cheddar didn't overwhelm the popcorn." A few students noticed the powdery cheddar was a bit messy. "This might not be good on a date," one said. Another said, "I don't mind the mess — I appreciate the mess," adding that it made the popcorn that much better.Smartfood produced bright, white popcorn in large shapes and sizes. "They are big, puffy and flavorful," one judge said. "These are both cheesy and salty," another said. Some students said the cheese tasted a little fake, but not unpleasantly so. "These kernels hold the cheese a little better than some of the other brands," said a student who noticed the popcorn wasn't as messy as the competition. "I would definitely buy this," she said.Popcorn lovers who want more crunch and less topping will prefer this brand, judges said. "It's got a good bite, but the taste is a bit bland," one student said. "My hands are dirty after eating it," another said. "But it didn't stop me from snacking." Students said the cheese coating on this popcorn left a bit of an aftertaste. "I need a drink of water," one said. Another said, "I'm not a big cheese lover, so I like this better than the others."

they buy?
All of the judges said yes.Half of the judges said yes.Half of the judges said yes.
Shopping information$3 for a 6.5-ounce bag from Publix.$3.99 for a 9-ounce bag from Publix.$3.99 for a 6.5-ounce bag from Winn-Dixie.

Also Sampled: Fresh Market ($3.49 for a 4.5-ounce bag from Fresh Market, 48 points); and Orville Redenbacher's Gourmet Popcorn

($2.99 for a 5-ounce bag from Publix, 44 points).

Panelists: Teacher Steve Sims and students Pablo Sanchez, Ray Carapella, Matt Davita, Bryce Nichols, Victoria Arbelaez, Houston Griffin, Bryn Bostad, Nikki Guida, Anne Marie Ferron, Shannon McCarthy, Willie Conley, Edward Alpizar, Tre Watson, Isaiah Osby, Ben Iacuone, Anthony Vertino, Derek Ortiz and Tristan Herrin.

Send suggestions for product testing to: Taste section, Tampa Bay Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731 or email them to Please put TEST SUGGESTION in the subject line. To read past Taster's Choice columns, go to

Serving size1 ounce1 ounce1 ounce
Fat/Fiber10g / 2g10g / 2g9g / 2g
Sugars/Sodium2g / 310mg2g / 290mg2g / 290mg
Carbs/Protein13g / 3g14g / 3g14g / 3g

Taste test: cheddar cheese popcorn 01/13/14 [Last modified: Monday, January 13, 2014 5:57pm]
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