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7 reasons why Wisconsin makes the best popcorn  1 Week ago

Source:   USA Today  

Wisconsin's dairy farms lead the charge in milk, cheese and butter output in the U.S. But did you know “America's Dairyland” is also home to more than three million acres of corn fields? With over 15,000 corn farmers throughout the state, Wisconsin ranked 8th in the country for corn production in 2016, harvesting 573 million bushels that year alone.

So it's no wonder that local popcorn vendors have popped up all over Wisconsin – each with their own unique approach to this much loved snack food.

Here's a look at why Wisconsin's popcorn stands out among the rest – from popping techniques to new twists on favorite local flavors.

1.  It's popped in small batches

When it comes to making quality popcorn, popping methods matter. For Valley Popcorn in Neenah, Wisconsin, using small patch poppers has been key to their success since the company got its start in 1992. “There is just no way to rush good flavor,” said Carl Freundl, owner of Valley Popcorn. “We don’t pop our corn in large industrial size poppers just to produce mass numbers. Instead, we use small batch poppers, manually adding ingredients and emptying the poppers when complete at the perfect time.”

Which is the only way to get it popped just right. “Our chefs watch over the entire process and can make small adjustments as needed,” Freundl said.

 2. Or wet-popped for added flavor

Striking the right flavor balance is key. For Palo Popcorn in Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin, perfect tasting popcorn starts with how it’s popped. “Wet-popping is simply the process of heating the popcorn kernels in oil, which causes the kernels to ultimately expand and pop into the puffy kernels you see in ready-to-eat bags of popcorn,” explained Matt Haas, director of sales at Palo Popcorn. “We’ve found the wet-popped process creates not only a more flavorful taste experience, but will also produce a crunchier popcorn texture.”

3. It’s part of the local community

Long before Palo Popcorn was available for purchase at stores like Meijer, it was a much-loved staple served at pubs. “In 1963 it was truly a local company, providing salted original popcorn to taverns across Sheboygan County,” Hass explained. While their popcorn portfolio has expanded since then, that same formula is still available today.

 4. It incorporates authentic Wisconsin ingredients

Combining Wisconsin cheese with popcorn may seem like a no-brainer – but perfecting the recipe took care and consideration for Palo Popcorn. “Product development begins with perfecting the base cheddar cheese flavor,” Hass explained. “Palo Popcorn has become synonymous with a gourmet cheddar popcorn experience and being from Wisconsin – if we cannot attain a robust cheddar cheese profile then we simply will not launch a new product.”

 5. Many local brands don’t include trans fats and preservatives

In its simplest form, popcorn can be a healthy snack. Which is why local popcorn brands like Valley Popcorn and Palo Popcorn don’t use additives in their product. “Popcorn is inherently viewed as a healthy snacking alternative to many other available options, so while our products lean towards more gourmet taste profiles it is still important to retain better-for-you ingredients and product attributes,” Hass explained. “The absence of preservatives, trans fats and preservatives in our products mirrors our belief that quality ingredients create quality products, and we have developed gourmet cheddar popcorn items without the need to add unnecessary preservatives.”

Freundl echoed this sentiment. “Valley Popcorn’s mission is very simple: provide our consumers with the cleanest label, healthiest, best tasting popcorn there is,” he said. “We offer the simple corn, salt and oil white popcorn and yellow popcorn with natural flavored butter salt.”

6. And there are a wide variety of flavors

Four words: bacon cheddar cheese popcorn. The inspiration behind Palo Popcorn’s interesting flavors have come as a response to local trends and ingredients – and even from customer asks.

“Our bacon cheddar flavor was developed from a specific customer request, but also happened during a time when bacon became a very popular food in general and was being included on menus at a wide range of restaurants,” Hass explained. “Our Mexican street corn flavored popcorn was offered in response to the emerging popularity of Mexican street corn last summer at street vendors, state fairs and festivals. This is one of our more unique creations including notes of sour cream, lime, a little bit of spice, and of course a creamy cheddar cheese base.”

7. It’s made with Wisconsin pride

“Wisconsin obviously has a proud heritage of cheese production, innovation and extremely high quality,” said Hass. “As a manufacturer of cheddar popcorn flavors, we are fortunate to live in the cheese capital of the world. The gourmet taste and quality of our products is a direct reflection of the cheese ingredients from right in our own backyard.”

Whether you're a fan of the wet-popped method, prefer the small batch approach, want to be more avant-garde with your popcorn flavor selection or don't want to mess with perfection, finding a new favorite snack is easy with so many locally-made products to choose from at Meijer. Stop by your neighborhood store, or shop online at Meijer.com. 

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