Rod and Hugh are back for the fourth (fifth?) time to talk about Lays Do Us a Flavor with live taste tests and some complain’ about Lays (who are clearly the enemy for putting on a free, voluntary contest for the public. They also tried a few other fringe flavors, not official in this year’s competition…(check our rankings of ALL FOURTEEN Lays Do Us a Flavor Finalists over the years.)
Fried Green Tomato (’17 Finalist) – A good idea. It’s sufficiently unique, but not wacky. The challenge here was harnessing a flavor that’s (a) not terribly well-known and (b) not particularly distinctive. Note that the image on the bag has a sauce on the top of the fried tomato. That mystery sauce gives Lays license to flavor the chip however they want, I suppose. Well, they decided to flavor it like black pepper. Lots of black pepper taste in there. It’s a bit like a salt and pepper chip, but with more pepper. Any green tomato taste was lost on us. A good tasting chip to be sure. But even with the power of suggestion, Fried Green Tomato doesn’t really proffer its namesake flavor. Flavor: 8.25 / Originality: 8 / Accuracy of flavor: 1.5 / Total: 17.75
Everything Bagel with Cream Cheese (’17 Finalist) – An intuitive idea that I’m surprised hasn’t been tried before in a mainstream chip. Not exactly the triple lindy for Lays flavor chemists though. Which is to say that everything bagels, while tasty, are driven by salt, garlic, onion, and poppy seeds – all flavors you can easily just pour onto some potato chips. So to increase the challenge they add, “with cream cheese.” Okay. Yeah. The cream cheese is there in there, resulting in a tasty, albeit non-daring entry into the Lays contest. Flavor: 7 /Originality: 5.25 / Accuracy of flavor: 6 /Total: 18.25
Crispy Taco (’17 Finalist) – Hugh hates that this one is so highly ranked because the idea is so uninspired (no offense to the person who pitched it). Hugh has always wanted this contest to offer something entirely new, but also viable. Taco flavored chips are old hat – mostly in the tortilla space, but it’s also a well tread road in potato chips. But ‘ole Crispy Taco makes up ground with its tastiness. And even more so in accuracy of flavor. You may say that it’s nothing too impressive to hit a taco flavor – just shake a packet of Ortega Taco Seasoning on a chip and there you have it. Can’t argue with ya. So what the heck is so impressive about Lays Crispy Taco? The “crispy,” you fool! This POTATO chip, gives off a pitch perfect hard shell CORN tortilla flavor (a corn flavored potato chip is, admittedly, not unheard of). It melds perfectly with the eponymous taco seasoning. Then, your brain is in full taco mode and you start picking up tomato and lettuce. Lettuce! In a chip? What? Okay, the lettuce might be power of suggestion. But Lays sparked my flavor imagination here. I usually complain about gimmick flavors that taste too much like its namesake – it can by spooky and unsettling. But here, Crispy Taco managed to claw its way to the other side of the uncanny valley of flavor. Flavor: 9 / Originality: 1.5 / Accuracy of flavor 9.75 / Total: 20.25
And a few not in the competition, but noteworthy nonetheless…
Lays Bacon Wrapped Jalapeño Poppers – these came out right at the same time as the 2017 Do Us a Flavor contest, but oddly were not one of the three finalists for that year’s contest. I suppose it could be a Lays creation, but it smacks of user submission sensibility. Taste-wise, we give these good marks, although the namesake flavor (or flavors) are understated to the point they are not particularly identifiable. The cream cheese is mostly invisible, which is surprising since Lays did successfully evoke cream cheese that same month with the Do Us a Flavor finalist, “Everything Bagel with Cream Cheese.” The bacon flavor was surprisingly subtle, which I suppose is a good show of restraint by Lays in this bacon-crazed society of ours. The jalapeño was the most notable flavor, but also restrained, mostly revealing itself at the end and in the aftertaste. And as a whole, they don’t scream, “Lays Bacon Wrapped Jalapeño Popper!” That’s not to say these are flavorless. They are good. But like many other gimmick flavors, this is, a unique idea and a tasty chip. But it fails in its evoking its namesake flavor.
Lays Sea Salt and Lime – Wow. These were a sweet surprise. These were labeled, “Limited Time Flavor,” and I know that they are. But I have seen them from time to time before, at least in ethnic/foreign specialty shops and internationally. Based on the name, my instinct on these is that these would simply meld the bitterness of lime with saltiness of a chip – an idea I didn’t love. I am pleased to announce that Lays made a sweet potato chip (not a “sweet potato” chip, but a sweet “potato chip.”) It would be more fitting to call this, limeade, or monitor, or margarita, given the sweetness. Not that these are sugar bombs. The sweetness is appropriate and well, balanced by salt.
We’ve covered this promotion thing plenty before…