Thursday, February 21, 2013

I ate the NEW Lay's 'Do Us a Flavor' finalists and all you get is this lousy review!

In the fall of last year, Lay's kicked off their "Do Us a Flavor" contest, with these three flavors selected as finalists and released throughout the country starting last week. Seems like an awesome, groundbreaking idea to not only get people excited about potato chips, but also a good gimmick to get them to buy three bags of chips at one time, right? But wait...

Much like The Office and drum-and-bass music, this ingenious contest/ad campaign was originally done by the British and then rehashed by American counterparts, where it was only about half as good. British crisps manufacturer Walkers (also owned by Lay's parent company, PepsiCo) ran the "Do Us a Flavour" contest in the summer of 2008, which asked the public to come up with a new flavor for the Walkers crisps line. Six flavors were selected by the company from the pool of entries, and released the following January to a vote, with the winner becoming a permanent flavor. In the end, Builder's Breakfast (a mix of fried eggs, tomato and assorted breakfast meats) beat out the other flavors (which included Chilli & Chocolate and Cajun Squirrel) and was named a permanent flavor, although it was discontinued the following year so that Walkers could run a similar contest featuring international flavors to coincide with the World Cup. (Oops.)

Lay's Cheesy Garlic Bread (Frito-Lay)
Calories: 160 (per serving)
Fat: 10g (per serving)

I had to take a whiff after opening the bag, and the first detectable aroma was that of butter and a smattering of garlic, which is just about how these chips taste, with a dusting of cheese powder. The combination of butter, cheese and garlic (and I'm pretty sure I got some oregano in there somewhere) is a fantastic combo, though the butter taste is more prevalent while the garlic is more of a background flavor. Swap those two and I would have rated this one even higher.

That said, though, these chips are pretty tasty, and I would buy them again, but I don't know if I could eat more than a handful in one sitting. That butter flavor really starts to get a little overpowering after a while. But the flavor is fairly true to the taste of garlic bread, just without the garlic burps that come afterward. [Edit: Actually, yes, I did end up with garlic burps after all, although it was a pretty mild case.]

Lay's Chicken & Waffles (Frito-Lay)
Calories: 160 (per serving)
Fat: 10g (per serving)

The first thing that hits is the brown-sugary sweetness of the maple syrup, which is the predominant flavor until the chicken creeps in near the end. But it's not a fried chicken taste. No, that would be very welcome here, but alas, it falls a bit flat, as this is more like the flavor of roast chicken... or chicken broth... or something flavored with chicken broth.

So while the intent here was a home run (or at the very least a ground-rule double), the execution was a swing and a miss, as basically, what you've got is chicken-flavored Rice-A-Roni with maple syrup poured over it. It that sounds appetizing to you, or you want to satiate your curiously, then by all means try the damn chips, but do yourself a favor and get the smallest bag available. You will thank me.


Lay's Sriracha (Frito-Lay)
Calories: 150 (per serving)
Fat: 10g (per serving)

Upon opening the bag to smell the contents, these smell a lot like Jay's Hot Stuff potato chips, which is disappointing, though at the same time sort of exciting, because those are one of the snacks that I miss most from living in Chicago. (So either way, I suppose it's a win-win here.)

The first thing I taste is the garlic, which is actually dialed up to just about the right level, and as far as the chili pepper taste that, along with garlic, forms the one-two punch that dominates said sauce, it's well-represented to create a really nice flavor here. But, unfortunately, it's not as strong as I was hoping. Sure, sriracha sauce isn't one of those sauces that's going to make your eyes water, but it does have a nice kick that's sort of lost in translation here. Think Flamin' Hot, then maybe brought down a couple notches. One nice touch is that Frito-Lay captured the sweetness of sriracha, which does make it work a lot better.

Of course, I'm going to ahead and assume that the person who submitted this idea has a bottle of THE sriracha sauce (a.k.a. Tương Ớt Sriracha, a.k.a. "rooster sauce"), manufactured by Huy Fong Foods, sitting in his/her refrigerator, which is what I'm using as a litmus test here, and I'm sure I'm not alone. And before you people get pissed off about Huy Fong being a mainstream Americanized version of sriracha sauce and send me a diatribe on how I don't know shit about shit, just go ahead and ball those fists back up, because yes, I realize there are many other brands and variations everywhere in-between here and Thailand (and I've been to several destinations within that range). And while some of them are much better, and some are much worse, these chips are basically a weaker version of most of those. Don't get me wrong, the flavor is really good, and these are probably the easiest to eat of all of the flavors, but it may be in Frito's interest to look into a venture with Huy Fong, much like they did with K.C. Masterpiece and Tapatío, in regards to flavors for Ruffles and Doritos, respectively. After all, these chips are being marketed to mainstream America, so using the most popular brand of sriracha in the country to flavor the chips would probably be a good business move.

While I had originally predicted that the sriracha flavor would win this competition, after consulting my friend who is also a vendor for Frito-Lay, the AWFUL WAFFLE has been flying off the fucking shelves at ridiculously disproportionate rates. I'm hoping that this is just due to initial curiosity and most of those people will hate it and vote for sriracha or garlic bread instead. If sriracha wins, a Huy Fong partnership would be best to help differentiate it from other spicy Lay's flavors such as Flamin' Hot and chile limón.

So, to sum things up, the garlic bread and sriracha are worth checking out while the chicken and waffles are nothing more than a novelty flavor that no one could possibly enjoy other than ironically. The World Cup happens to be next year, so the winner of this American variation of "Do Us a Flavour" (minus the "u") could meet a similar fate as the British counterpart, although I don't see Lay's using the World Cup as any sort of advertising mechanism. Sabritas or Takis, maybe, but not Lay's.


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