Cubicle Cuisine Test: SmartFood
Dare I say - unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for 20 years - you have tried SmartFood. SmartFood White Cheddar Cheese Flavored Popcorn is a vending machine staple eaten by everyone down on the cube farm. But, have you tried SmartFood lately, or do you wonder about its nutritional value? At About.com, nine co-workers sampled SmartFood and shared their opinions.
But first - this is not an urban legend - SmartFood was accidentally invented in its role as a fill for a newly designed reclosable package. “The popcorn turned out better than the package,” said the inventor of SmartFood to the New York Times. Introduced in 1985, SmartFood was the first white cheddar cheese pre-popped popcorn on the market.
And now, without further ado, here is the combined feedback from our testers.
(1) Describe the taste.
Our tasters described SmartFood as "cheesy" (in a good way) most often, followed by "slightly salty," and also mentioned was buttery, savory, artificial, and "just short of stale."
(2) Describe the texture.
Most tasters tried to capture the velvety tenderness of high-grade popcorn together with the mouth-feel of oil. "Smooth, creamy, fluffy, and light" where used most often. The word "powdery" came up often and some said SmartFood was slightly crunchy and even chewy to the point of sticking to the teeth.
(3) What did you like about it?
Most people had something positive to say about SmartFood. "Insanely tasty" sums it up. They said it had the perfect amount of cheese and salt and it is "better than popcorn".
(4) What didn’t you like about it?
Most frequently mentioned: Messy on the fingers. An artificial taste was noted by about a third of the testers.
(5) Did it satisfy your snack craving or did you want something else as well?
SmartFood satisfied everyone’s craving. They said a drink would be nice but not necessary. Most thought that SmartFood was a great low-calorie snack, but only 75 percent would not recommend SmartFood to a friend.
The vending machine-size bag of SmartFood had 100-calories for about .75 cups. Like all popcorn, SmartFood is a high-fiber, whole grain food (yes, corn is a grain.) It is high in fiber because it provides more than 5% of the DV (Daily Value) in one serving. SmartFood provides some protein and it has very little sugar - both are a plus. The total fat and saturated fat are higher than need be, but both are below the 20% DV upper limit. The same holds true for sodium. And much of the fat is healthier unsaturated fat and trans-fats are absent. There is also a wee bit of iron and of calcium from the cheese.
Ingredient-wise, the first two are popcorn and oil, which is a good sign. And then comes butter, salt, corn syrup solids, monosodium glutamate, sugar, non-fat milk, cheddar cheese, dextrose, sodium caseinate, artificial color, lactic acid, disodium guanylate, disodium inosinate, and natural and artificial flavors. Most of those ingredients are components of the dehydrated butter and cheese, and others are there to enhance the flavor. That's why it's so tasty.
Overall, our testers think SmartFood is yummy. True, it has more fat and salt and fewer nutrients than it could have, but as one tester said, "It’s better than oily full-fat chips and those bland baked snacks." SmartFoot is one of the better choices from the vending machine, but please also understand that SmartFood is no fresh fruit, baby carrots, hummus, or hard boiled egg. At the same time, we all know that the vending machine is not about healthy snacks (I wish!), and these days “it could be worse” is a compliment indeed. SmartFood is also available in a reduced fat version, which saves some calories from fat, but I have not seen this type in the nearby vending machines.
Question for you:
What do you think of SmartFood?