Woodinville-made Halfpops

Crunchy, seasoned half-popped popcorn proves a snacker’s delight.

If invention is born the minute an idea pops into an unsuspecting brain, Mike Fitzgerald’s Halfpops snack was born when an idea popped, well, half-popped, into someone’s bowl.

Halfpops started with a California man’s craving for those partially popped kernels often found at the bottom of the bowl. He then tried to make a business out of it, with no success. He was introduced to Fitzgerald, a former Bellevue pro racecar driver, who took up the idea. In 2008, Fitzgerald embarked on a quest to get those half-popped kernels onto store shelves, considering everything from how to re-create the recipe to the packaging of the final product. Fitzgerald opened his Woodinville production facility in 2010, and equipped with an 11-foot-tall, 14,000-pound popcorn maker, he and his crew manipulated moisture content, temperature and a few other variables to create perfectly half-popped kernels.

The kernels currently come in two flavors, butter and sea salt, and white cheddar, and Fitzgerald says they pack more crunch and flavor than regular popcorn. Snack addicts can enjoy Halfpops straight from 2- or 7-ounce bags ($1.49/ $3.79), but forward-thinking foodies like Barking Frog pastry pro Matt Kelley have been popping them into desserts, using them in salads as substitutes for croutons and scattering them on soups (Fitzgerald suggests the white cheddar flavor in tomato soup). Fans can look for a new (at press time undetermined) flavor to pop up later this year.

Halfpops are available locally at area Metropolitan Markets and sold by the case (with free shipping) at halfpops.com.