Four Americans, including one of Indian origin, are inventors of a patented (US 6200611) General Mills product which could well have been inspired by the humble Indian chiki.
Rheon Automatic Machinery is the only other player active in this field. This is an improvement over General Mills' patent 360969.

An apparatus (10) for forming popcorn bars utilizing methods according to the preferred teachings of the present invention is disclosed where popcorn popped in an air popper (12) and coated with a molten binder in the form of a caramel syrup in an auger mixer (20) is compressed into a sheet by a device (32). In the sheeting device (32), the coated popped popcorn is drawn into and passes
between an input conveyor (30) and a compressing conveyor (34) arranged at a non-parallel angle thereto. An air manifold (37) directs cooled air to the upper surface of the compressing conveyor (34) to cool the belting (36) thereof, with the cooled air being deflected to cool a spreader box (28) which receives the coated popcorn from the auger mixer (20) and distributes it on the input conveyor (30). The coated popcorn is cooled while being transported by a transport conveyor (44) including belting in the form of a mesh by a multiplicity of fans (46) located above and below the transport conveyor (44) and mounted on a movable support. The sheet is cut into strips which can then be separated and cut into the desired lengths.

First of 22 Claims: Method for forming popcorn bars having a width and a length comprising the steps of: providing popped popcorn; providing a molten binder; removing any unpopped and any partial kernels from the popped popcorn; coating the popped popcorn with the molten binder after removal of any unpopped and partial kernels; compressing a mass of the coated popped popcorn into a compressed sheet; reducing the temperature of the coated popped popcorn to a temperature to solidify the binder and to bind the popped popcorn; cutting the compressed sheet with knives into a plurality of strips having a width equal to the width of the popcorn bars; and cutting the plurality of strips with at least one knife to a length equal to the length of the popcorn bars.

By Navroz Havewala, correspondent