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Taste Test: Microwave Popcorn

Big red bowl of popcorn isolated on white;

Big red bowl of popcorn isolated on white;

Microwave popcorn is a dieter's dream. It's also a great, quick snack for an impromptu gathering, a teen sleepover and any other party requiring a warm, tasty treat in seconds. And, as long as co-workers can handle the lingering aroma, it's a great afternoon pick-me-up in the office. But what brand to pick? A third of an aisle at one local grocery store is filled with microwave popcorn options. We sampled seven brands of microwave popcorn labeled "light."

Kathy Saunders, Times correspondent


(out of 100)
Publix 62Orville Redenbacher's 57Pop Secret 53

One judge described these popped pieces as "bumpy white pillows." Judges enjoyed the airy texture of the popcorn as well as the balance of salt and other flavors. "There's a nice, yellow hue to the kernels and the popcorn has an almost dill flavor," said another. "It's very appealing and doesn't have a ton of salt." One said the salt was more of a "dusting" on the popcorn.These kernels were larger when popped, giving judges a big bite of taste. "I like the hint of yellow in the kernels," said one panelist. The flavor was extremely light with only a vague hint of butter or saltiness. That was a plus for some judges who said they would add spices or other toppings to doctor it up, depending on the party. Another said he thinks it's the perfect popcorn for movie theaters. "It's not greasy at all and would be easy to eat."Fluffiness made this popcorn one of the top scorers. Judges liked Pop Secret for its lightness, its mild flavor and its softness. Only one complained it was too soft, saying it "looked only slightly tougher than a whisper." Another said he appreciated that it had "just a hint of butter," adding, "I would love a big bowl of this during an Alfred Hitchcock marathon."

they buy?
Three of the four judges said yes.Three of the four judges said yes.Two of the four judges said yes.
Shopping information$3.59 for a 12.6-ounce box of six bags.$3.48 for an 11.6-ounce box of 10 bags from Walmart.$2.28 for a 4.8-ounce box of four bags from Walmart.

Also Sampled: Market Pantry ($2.37 for a 16.1-ounce box of six bags from Target, 37 points); Winn-Dixie ($2.29 for a 9-ounce box of three bags, 50 points); Jolly Time ($2.59 for a 9-ounce box of three bags from Publix, 52 points); and Newman's Own ($2.49 for a 10.5-ounce box of three bags from Publix, 14 points).

Panelists: Bob Devin Jones, artistic director of Studio@620; Jim Yockey, aesthetician; John Hehn, foodie and owner of All Brite Lighting & Power Design Inc.; and Laura Reiley, Times food critic. All foods were tasted blind.

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 size1.5 ounces1.1 ounces1.2 ounces
Fat/Fiber3.5g / 3g2g / 3g2g / 4g
Sugars/Sodium0g / 220mg0g / 260mg0g / 320mg
Carbs/Protein17g / 2g22g / 3g23g / 3g

Taste Test: Microwave Popcorn 08/18/14 [Last modified: Monday, August 18, 2014 6:55pm]
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