We should have seen it coming. First, there were healthy brownies. Then, there were healthy candies. Why was it so shocking that there should suddenly be an explosion of healthy popcorns? Presumably, because the guilty comfort food of zitty adolescents and the heavy-breathing adults was never a sugar delivery device. It delivered butter and salt. It was, on some level anyway, savory. And its savory nature might — we assumed without explicitly thinking it — protect it from the healthy food revolution. But no. Not so much. There are suddenly all sort of healthy popcorns, many which include a tortured linguistic variant of the word popcorn. Most are bad. Some are good. The two best are Pipcorn and Vitapop.
Both popcorns have backstories worth mentioning. Pipcorn became the reality star of the healthy popcorn space, when, in 2014, its sibling founders, Jeff and Jen Martin, secured funding on an episode of Shark Tank. Vitapop, on the other hand, is one of many snacks offered by Skinny Vitamins, a company founded by Natascha Burton, who was diagnosed with MS and a vitamin deficiency, went blind then regaining her eyesight by eating well. Burton’s popcorn is “infused with over 15 essential vitamins and 10 grams of protein.” The Martin’s popcorn says “delicious” right on the bag. Clearly, the contest for health popcorn supremacy will be intense.
Crunch: Crunch is to popcorn is what snap is to hot dogs. It is perhaps the single most important trait. Pipcorn’s whole shtick is that it’s smaller than normal popcorn. [One way, apparently, to ameliorate the unhealthiness of popcorn is to make it smaller.] But also that the husk is thinner than standard popcorn, meaning its easier to eat and to digest. Unfortunately, that also to some degree affects the crunch. Vitapop, on the other hand, has a nice solid crunch on the palate.
Pipcorn o – 1 Vitapop
Flavor: Both brands offer the usual stable of bourgeois popcorn flavors: sea salt, black truffle and white cheddar. Pipcorn rounds that out with Ghee, Kettle-Roasted and Rosemary. For the sake of scientific comparison, we compared Sea Salt across both. In this comparison, Pipcorn beat Vitapop’s instant disqualification due to excessive saltiness. I mean, fuck. What good are 15 essential vitamins and 10 grams of protein if your blood pressure is through the roof? Pipcorn, on the other hand, tasted just like delicious popcorn. It’s popped in olive oil which imparts a nice round flavor that offsets the sharp, though not overpowering, saltiness.
Pipcorn 1 – 1 Vitapop
Mouthfeel: In its ideal form, popcorn is the natural Dorito, meaning it’s full of “vanishing caloric density.” VCD, in turn, means that the snack soon disappears from your maw and you want more. Now, popcorn has this naturally, Doritos have it manufactured. Strangely, this healthy popcorn mucks with the natural genius of the snack. Though Pipcorn’s mouthfeel is more fleeting, a positive thing, Vitapop has a strange aftertaste, somewhere between plastic and cardboard. So it isn’t a good thing. But perhaps the most gutting aspect is that this longtail flavor lingers like your creepy neighbor at your house party and that means you won’t want to throw another house party for a very long time.
Pipcorn 2 – 1 Vitapop
And the winner is…Pipcorn. Look, if you want healthy food, just don’t eat popcorn. Eat something healthy. If you want good popcorn, eat Pipcorn and a lot of it.