Anybody remember Peanuts! Popcorn!? If you do, you have quite a memory, because this snack-inspired treat was only available for a few months way back in 2000. But even though it was short-lived on freezer shelves, it has always been a favorite of Flavour Guru Eric Fredette, who developed the flavour.
Featuring caramel ice cream with white fudge-covered caramel popcorn, toffee-coated peanuts and a caramel swirl, Peanuts! Popcorn! was a hit with fans, until they found its one fundamental flaw. We sat down with Eric to talk about this flavour flop and get the inside scoop.
Where did the idea for Peanuts! Popcorn! come from?
It was my idea. The idea was to mimic the flavour profile of those peanut and caramel popcorn snack boxes, the ones with the prize inside. It was a great flavour when we first developed it and we all had really high hopes. It had a bit of nostalgia to it, you felt like you were sitting in a baseball stadium watching a ball game with guys yelling, “Peanuts! Popcorn!” and selling snacks. I love to create those flavours that bring you back to a moment in time.
What was the development process like?
We generally take about three or four tries to get a flavour just right, depending on the complexity of the flavour. You have to tweak ingredients here and there to get the flavours and textures just right. Whatever the flavour profile you’re trying to deliver on, people should feel it as soon as they take a bite, it should trigger all those memories. For Peanuts! Popcorn!, that’s ball games, movie theaters, digging into the box for the prize at the bottom when you’re a kid. I wanted to trigger that nostalgia.
What did you think of Peanuts! Popcorn! when it was finished?
Loved it. It was a nice little flavour, all the elements came together really well. The popcorn and the peanuts had just the right crunch. It was a real winner.
So, what happened? What was the big flaw?
The popcorn was the big issue. When you mix things into ice cream, the moisture of the ice cream eventually seeps into them, changing the texture. That’s why when we mix cookies or pretzels into our flavours, we usually coat them in chocolate to protect them. It forms a barrier that’s delicious but also keeps things crunchy. But the popcorn was so oddly shaped that the white fudge didn’t do its job properly and the popcorn got soggy. And nobody wants to eat soggy popcorn. We started getting calls and letters from unhappy folks and we agreed, it was a flop of a flavour. Once you lose the crunch of the popcorn, you lose the moment, you lose that nostalgia.
Tell me more about chocolate coatings, they’re really not just an excuse to add more chocolate?
Nope, that chocolate has a really important purpose. If you want anything to stay crunchy, it needs a barrier around it to protect it from the moisture of the ice cream. Sometimes, though, we want things to have a softer texture, like the sandwich cookies in S'wich Up or Peanut Butter & Cookies Non-Dairy, so those are intentionally not coated. Or brownies, you want those to be soft and chewy.
If you were to remake it today, do you think you could make a version that didn’t have soggy popcorn?
Definitely. Today we could use kettle corn which is shaped differently and would hold a chocolate coating better. I don’t think anybody’s interested in revisiting it, but in theory, we could do it much better today.