Thursday, July 31, 2014

Moonlight Motel Guest Reviews: Eric F. - Sizing Up America's New Potato Chip Flavors

Hello, folks! We're taking a break from our multi-part look at my Disney World trip from last December to bring back guest critic Eric F., who has a thing or two to say about Lay's recent contest to find some new potato chip flavors for store shelves. I'm some pretty wacky stuff! So, we'll be back soon with Part 4: Day 2 of our Disney vacation, but without further ado, here's Eric F.!

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First, I'd like to once again extend my thanks to Monty for letting me post another food review to his site. This time I will discuss another of America's favorite snack foods: the classic potato chip. Lay's potato chips have been around for ages, and have put out some excellent flavors over the years. I'm not claiming that they're necessarily the best potato chip company, but I think it's safe to say that they're the most popular. From what I know, in 2008 they began holding contests across the world in which consumers submitted new flavor ideas to them. They did this in about 15 different countries, but never here in the U.S. until last year, when they introduced their first American "Do Us a Flavor" contest. Not surprisingly, about 14 million total entries were submitted. Lay's then selected 3 finalist flavors, Cheesy Garlic Bread, Chicken & Waffles, and Sriracha, which were produced and sold in stores for about 3 months. During that time, consumers would try the flavors and vote for their favorite. Whichever flavor got the most votes would become the new official Lay's flavor, and the "losing" flavors would be discontinued. The 2 runner-ups each got $50,000 and the winner got a cool million, or more if it ended up selling more than a million dollars during a year's time. Not a bad deal. And this year the same contest was held again, with 3 major differences. One, 4 finalists were chosen instead of 3. And two, people were now given the option to select Wavy or Kettle Cooked in addition to Classic when submitting. And three, all the finalist flavors this year come in the larger-sized bags. A rather odd choice by Lay's to use the larger (and therefore more expensive) bags to introduce new flavors.

I had fun submitting many flavors myself, including Hot Dog with Ketchup & Mustard, Chinese Take-Out, Guacamole Dip, and Buttery Corn on the Cob. I also submitted some off-the-wall flavors just for kicks, such as Fried Calamari Rings with Sauce, Borscht, Escargot, Cotton Candy, and Texas Deep Fried Rattlesnake. And it was funny to read some of the totally inappropriate flavors submitted by others, including Sinus Infection, Leather Upholstery, Bellybutton Lint and Spoiled Milk.




But alas, none of my flavors were to be, and 4 other flavors were chosen as this year's finalists. And now, I will briefly discuss each:





Cappuccino

Sad to say, I'm highly disappointed. This was the flavor out of the 4 that I was the most excited about (well, the *only* flavor out of the 4 that I was excited about at first, to be honest). It does taste like a cappuccino, but very subtly. Also, one's brain just can't make the connection between a cup of cappuccino and a potato chip. And finally, I don't like the aftertaste, which is rather off-putting. But for me, what really makes this a poor chip is the fact that the potato flavor is the most prominent. This wouldn't be so much of an issue if the flavor was something more "chip-friendly" than cappuccino. But if a potato chip is going to be made with a flavor like cappuccino, the cappuccino flavor must "mask" the potato flavor.




Mango Salsa

Next up, Mango Salsa Wavy style. I was really hoping that this flavor would be better than the Cappuccino, and for the most part, I like them. As with the Cappuccino flavor, the Mango Salsa leans more towards the subtle, but in this case it works much better. The mango flavor is definitely there, and is quite noticeable at first, and then fades away (not a bad thing). The salsa flavor (at least to me) isn't as noticeable, but that isn't an issue. And the wavy style for this chip was the perfect choice. So all in all, these get a recommendation from me.




Wasabi Ginger

Now for the third finalist flavor, Wasabi Ginger. I must first confess that I approached this flavor with a bias, as I'm not a fan of wasabi nor ginger. But, I tried to put myself in the shoes of someone who likes those flavors so that I could judge the chip on the more "technical" aspects such as authenticity of flavor, aftertaste, etc. The verdict: as both wasabi and ginger flavors are pungent, the combination of them in a chip is an automatic red flag, and the flavor must not be an assault on one's taste buds. Well, it's not, and I can definitely see someone liking these a lot who enjoys the taste of wasabi and ginger. The flavors are very present (more so than any of the other finalist flavors), but not overwhelmingly so. And the aftertaste is a good one, but again, only for those who like wasabi and ginger. The Kettle Cooked chip style was a good choice, although I could also see this chip having worked out fine with a Wavy style instead. So, although these flavors aren't my cup of tea, I can see this chip as scoring very high points for wasabi and ginger fans.




Cheddar Bacon Mac & Cheese

And finally, my take on the Cheddar Bacon Mac & Cheese. Just about everyone who's been following these contests knows that this flavor will probably win. In fact, some are saying that it's been the winner all along. I don't doubt that for a second. It's the most "accessible" flavor, the most "comfort food" flavor of the group, and that's what sells the most. But, getting to the actual flavor: very tasty. Wow. They nailed the flavor in terms of the bacon and the cheese - both are very noticeable, without either one dominating. Macaroni in and of itself is pretty much tasteless, so this flavor really should be called Bacon & Cheddar, or Bacon & Cheese. But, whatever. It tastes great, and that's what will give it a major advantage over the others.


I will now briefly overview last year's flavors:




Chicken & Waffles

My personal favorite, and in a fair and just world, this should have won the contest. But as with the Cappuccino, it was the underdog all along, and probably never stood a chance. The salty/sweet combination was just right, even with the chicken's seasoning being present.

Sriracha

I liked these too, but not as much. I had never even heard of Sriracha sauce before, and it took me a little bit to get used to the flavor. From the reviews I read on the web, the flavor itself is very authentic, and for those who like it, they really like it.

Cheesy Garlic Bread

Last year's winner, of course. A little redundant and similar to other cheese flavored chips out there (just like the Cheddar Bacon Mac & Cheese is), but again, that's the exact comfort food that people crave. My own take on this flavor is that it's tasty, but not original.

It's worth noting that although the Chicken & Waffles and Sriracha "lost" the contest, both have been brought back for limited times. Whenever this happens, I make a point to stock up on the Chicken & Waffles like it was nobody's business.




And just on a side note, I'd totally love to try out Canada's 4 finalist flavors from their "Do Us a Flavor" contest last year: Creamy Garlic Caesar, Grilled Cheese & Ketchup, Maple Moose and Perogy Platter. And if I were to go there again I would stock up on their Ketchup flavor, which is incredible - just like eating fries with ketchup.



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