Kettle corn has come a long way from the county fairs and flea markets.
Eager to play up the sensible side of many indulgent foods, manufacturers have given a healthful makeover to this snack that, during colonial times, was made using pig lard and molasses. These days, mainstream companies like Jolly Time and niche brands are reformulating kettle corn, reducing the fat and sodium while still keeping it sweet enough. Others are going the all-natural route and playing up kettle corn's healthful nutrients, like whole grains and fiber. Mankato, Minn.-based Angie's Kettle Corn makes small batches using local ingredients that are free of chemicals and preservatives. Its new caramel-flavored line is sweet — but not too sweet.
“The kernels are not smothered or drenched, but ‘kissed’ with caramel,” said Angie's president and co-founder, Dan Bastian.
Kettle corn is also going high-profile and merging with other trends. Last month, Health magazine ran a kettle corn recipe from reality TV star Bethenny Frankel that contains just over 200 calories. And Probar, an organic nutrition bar company carried in Whole Foods and other retailers, recently added a kettle corn flavor to its lineup that combines the signature ingredient with oats, dates and cashews.