Chips Ahoy

Salty snacks get creative, bold and a little bizarre

A spate of recent rollouts in the salty-snack category reflects numerous food trends, from regional American foods to sweet-and-salty combinations and all things bacon.

The overarching theme: engage consumers with something out of the ordinary, often cheeky and even a little bizarre.

Crossover Chips: A chip inspired by a taco inspired by a chip? Yep. Doritos is hoping to capture some of the record-breaking success Taco Bell has seen with the Doritos Locos Tacos by bring the flavors to the chip aisle. The two varieties actually contain two different flavors in each bag: one bag contains Nacho Cheese and Crunchy Taco chips, the other Cool Ranch and Crunchy Taco. The chips will be available April 8.

For the Guys: In February, PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay division launched Beer-Battered Onion Ring Ruffles. Citing a poll that found onion rings as the second most popular bar food after french fries, the company hopes the new chips will appeal to men during their favorite social pastimes, be it tailgating or watching the game at home with friends.

On the Culinary Cusp: Kettle Brand has always prided itself in being on top of flavor trends with varieties like Spicy Thai and Buffalo Bleu. It’s now getting on the bacon bandwagon with a maple bacon variety that’s sweet, smoky and a bit spicy with the addition of chili pepper. Also on the sweet-and-savory tip, Kettle Brand launched a Sweet and Salty variety, reminiscent of kettle corn.

Speaking of which, Popchips has come out with a kettle corn flavor of its own curated by pop star Katy Perry.

Crowd Sourced Flavors: Social media, sweet-and-savory combos, regional American foods, all things sriracha: Lay’s is experiencing a convergence of trends with its Do Us a Flavor contest, during which the general public sent in ideas for new flavors of Lay’s potato chips. Consumers are currently voting on the three finalists—Cheesy Garlic Bread, Chicken and Waffles (a Southern food favorite) and Sriracha—via social media and texting, and the winner will join the Lay’s lineup of products.

Selective Spice: Sriracha isn’t the only hot sauce with a cult following that’s finding its ways into bags of chips. Frito-Lay has expanded its lineup of snacks that feature Tapatio hot sauce with new Lay’s Tapatio Limon flavored potato chips and Cheetos Tapatio flavored snacks. The varieties are available in the Western and Central United States.

Regional Americana: Frito-Lay also launched a line of regionally inspired flavors that are only available in certain parts of the country. A Balsamic Sweet Onion variety was inspired by the Pacific Northwest; consumers in the Northeast can sample Honey Mustard chips; and Tangy Carolina BBQ was inspired by BBQ country and is available nationwide.

Eyebrow Archers: Late last year, Pringles released limited-edition holiday flavors inspired by seasonal favorites. Cinnamon & Sugar, Pumpkin Pie Spice and White Chocolate Peppermint were available for a limited time and created buzz from consumers who loved, hated or were simply awed by the lineup.

Bottom Line: Consumers continue to search for foods that promise not just bold flavors, but also an engaging story. Beer-Battered Onion Ring Ruffles speaks to guys’ desire to join with friends for fried food and a game. Regionally inspired flavors such as Tangy Carolina BBQ reflect our ongoing interest in the food culture found in our own backyards. Sriracha and bacon are two of the hottest ingredients of the past five years. Doritos Locos Tacos Doritos and Pringles’ seasonal flavors? Well, that just reflects companies that aren’t afraid to have fun.