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With food lines at this Saturday's Taco Truck Challenge snaking across the South Lake Union Discovery Center courtyard, many attendees made do with giveaway bags

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Woodinville Snack Maker Introduces Half-Popped Idea

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With food lines at this Saturday's Taco Truck Challenge snaking across the South Lake Union Discovery Center courtyard, many attendees made do with giveaway bags of Halfpops, a new, locally-made packaged corn snack.

Halfpops has distributed its partially-popped corn at various celebrity and sporting events this spring, but its booth at the Taco Truck festival was the company's first significant promotional effort.

"It was really good," owner Mike Fitzgerald said of response to the nosh. "We've gotten a lot of e-mails."

Many of the most enthusiastic comments have come from eaters who, like Halfpops' inventor, treasure the popcorn kernels that narrowly escape old maidom by mustering a near-pop. "He always liked the stuff at the bottom of the bowl, so he spent a lot of time figuring out how to make it," says Fitzgerald, who's since purchased the patent.

Halfpops released its product about two weeks ago: Two-ounce bags are now sold in 128 Shell stations in Washington and Idaho, and Fitzgerald's working to get seven-ounce bags on area grocery store shelves.

"We're made in Woodinville, and we're trying to keep it local," says Fitzgerald, who's also quick to tout Halfpops' minimalist ingredient list.

"You've got popcorn, canola oil, salt and butter or cheese powder," Fitzgerald says. "It's not organic, but it's pretty much everything else."

Halfpops - which have a taste and crunch reminiscent of Corn Nuts -- are now available in "natural aged white cheddar" and "natural butter and pure ocean sea salt" varieties. Fitzgerald's polling fans via the Halfpops web site on whether the next flavor should be kettle corn; chipotle and lime or jalapeno cheese. Kettle corn has thus far collected more than half the votes cast.

Fitzgerald, a former hospital worker and race car driver, says he's surprised nobody's ever thought to market almost-popcorn.

"It's kind of amazing to me, because it's really good," he says.

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