Call them chips or call them crisps—whatever you call them, these humble snacks are the crunch heard around the world. Potato chips are the affordable souvenir that can be scooped up at a bodega, vending machine, or train terminal. The flavor, however, varies by location. Ali Payne, vice president of global snacks innovation at PepsiCo, explains how cultural cravings affect seasonings. If travelers want to eat like a local, look no further than inside a shiny bag.
Why are some flavors so popular around the world?
Most are popular because of their familiar profiles, like picanha (beef) in Brazil, masala in India, and barbecue in the U.S., while other flavors, like cucumber in China, are popular because they’re unexpected. Even within the U.S., there are regional preferences: Limón on the West Coast, salt and vinegar on the East Coast, and spicy flavors in the South.
When creating chip flavors for various countries, what factors do you consider?
While we keep a close eye on emerging flavor trends, local cuisines are the tastes that resonate most. In our Do Us a Flavor program, where we invite consumers to invent new Lay’s flavors, we’ve seen time and again that preferences are largely in line with local comfort food. In the U.K., winning flavors include pulled pork in a barbecue sauce and Builder’s Breakfast, which captures all of the elements of a full English breakfast, while in the U.S., winners include southern biscuits and gravy and cheesy garlic bread.
What are the emerging flavor trends?
We’re definitely seeing flavor trends transfer from the restaurant world into snacks. Years ago you never would have seen sriracha on a chip, but the condiment has made its way into our restaurants, our kitchens, and our Lay’s as one of the 2013 Do Us a Flavor finalists in the U.S.
We’re also seeing interest in ingredients from other countries, since people are increasingly exposed to flavors around the world through travel and social media. A flavor like wasabi and ginger, which may have once been considered exotic in the U.S., is now a hugely popular flavor thanks to the prevalence of Japanese cuisine, and Italian red meat is now one of the most popular flavors in China.
Which country favors the spiciest flavors?
Mexico has the spiciest flavors in their portfolio. However, we continue to see the spice trend grow globally.
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What goes in to researching a new potato chip flavor?
Once we decide on a flavor, our chefs create dozens of versions of the dish to identify the ideal flavor profile, which they then replicate on a chip. It can take four or five months to develop and perfect the new flavor.
Which country has the most flavor variety?
The U.S. has the most flavor variety of any country.