Cheese doodles, cheese curls, cheese balls, corn curls — whatever you call it, this crunchy, cheese-powdered snack came from the brain of Edward Wilson, a curious employee at Flakall Corporation, a producer of corn-based feed for animals. Wilson noticed the machines that produced cornmeal would sometimes get so hot that the cornmeal came out in puffy cooked pieces that hardened as they came in contact with air. One day he took some of the puffy pieces home, added oil and the cheese flavor, and made the first cheese puffs. By 1946, Flakall Corp produced the earliest known version of cheese puffs that they called Korn Kurls.
To date, there are over 324 variations of cheese puffs, including the popular Cheetos and Utz's Cheese Balls. The addictive snack is even spoofed in pop culture with this satirical scene from South Park.
Info from Grandparents.com