The Final Rows
By Deborah Cassell

Some people go looking for love in all the wrong places … even on television. Think MTV’s oldie-but-goodie “Singled Out,” the very cheezy “Blind Date” and every woman’s guilty pleasure, “The Bachelor.”
The grocery store itself often is hailed as a “meat market” of sorts — some dating experts call it the perfect place to meet members of the opposite sex. When it comes to shopping, the snack aisles really are the “final rows.” There, singletons, as well as married folks, can find “all that … and a bag of chips.”
In January, almost all potato chip producers took out the trans fat, but not the flavor, resulting in more healthful profiles. Among the most popular package promotions has been “40% reduced fat.” Organic and all-natural are other leading label claims.
“Consumers are smart, and they know how to read nutritional panels,” says Kyser Thompson, chief storyteller for LesserEvil Brand Snack Co., Tuckahoe, N.Y. “They’re out there looking for healthier snacks that have the taste and the nutritional panel to match.”
In addition, “extreme” flavors are growing in popularity, led largely bySalem, Ore.-based Kettle Foods, which is known for its innovative varieties and loyal fan base.
The question is, which of these new products will answer consumers’ hearts’ desires?
What’s Good For You
How many of you during the dating process brought home beaus that your parents deemed unworthy of your affection? In most cases, mom and dad think they know what’s best for their kids. And they’re usually right.
In the past, if parents were going to pick a snack that met their child’s nutritional needs, potato chips might not have been top of mind. But times, they are a changin.’
According to Paul Smith, director of marketing for Shearer’s Foods, Brewster, Ohio, health and wellness/portion control and organic are two of the three biggest snack trends this year. Shearer’s addresses this demand with its 40% Reduced Fat Kettle-Cooked Potato Chips.
“By using 100% pure, natural oils with centrifuge technology that spins away excess fat, we’re able to offer a healthier potato chip without sacrificing great taste,” Smith says.
Snyder of Berlin, Berlin, Pa., does the same with its Snyder of Berlin Kettle-Cooked Olive Oil & Herb potato chips, which come in a 40% reduced-fat profile that’s also all-natural and trans fat-free.
Meanwhile, Ubiquity Brands’ Krunchers! line makes a reduced-fat kettle potato chip with “all the taste” of its original, according to Kris Malkoski, executive vice president and chief marketing officer for the Chicago-based company.
The Inventure Group, Phoenix, Ariz., also offers 40% reduced-fat potato chips from its Poore Brothers brand, as does Utz Quality Foods, Hanover, Pa., whose 40% reduced fat Utz Kettle Classics are part of a “Snacking Smart” initiative.
In addition, Utz recently incorporated some new flavors into its Natural & Organic line, including Gourmet Medley, a blend of Russet, lightly salted, blue potato and sweet potato chips. In addition, Utz Baked Potato Crisps — available in Original, BBQ and Cheddar & Sour Cream — offer just 1.5 g. to 3.5 g. of fat per serving.
Kettle Brand also answers the call for baked chips with its Kettle Bakes, which contain only 3 g. of fat per serving. The varieties from Kettle Foods include Aged White Cheddar, Hickory Honey BBQ and Lightly Salted.
Potato Chips — Top 15 Brands
(For 52 weeks ending March 25, 2007)
Rank Brand Dollar Sales (in millions) % Change Dollar Share Dollar Share Change vs. Previous Year
1 Lays $733.0 -1.9 26.5 -0.9
2 Wavy Lays $273.1 -0.9 9.9 -0.3
3 Ruffles $245.1 -3.4 8.9 -0.5
4 Pringles $232.8 -5.0 8.4 -0.6
5 Private Label $133.7 +5.2 4.8 +0.2
6 Baked Lays $100.9 +28.4 3.6 +0.8
7 Utz $89.6 +10.9 3.2 +0.3
8 Lays Stax $67.3 -3.3 2.4 -0.1
9 Cape Cod $66.4 +9.4 2.4 +0.2
10 Lays Kettle Cooked $59.6 +15.7 2.2 +0.3
11 Herr’s $48.9 +7.6 1.8 +0.1
12 Kettle Chips $48.9 +51.5 1.8 +0.6
13 Wise $48.2 +7.8 1.7 +0.1
14 Baked Ruffles $44.6 +13.6 1.6 +0.2
15 Ruffles Light $41.3 -11.2 1.5 -0.2
Total, including brands not shown $2,771.1 +1.6 100.0  
Source: Information Resources, Inc.
Total U.S. – Supermarkets, drug stores and mass merchandisers (excluding Wal-Mart)
Then there’s Herr’s new Natural line, which uses “the unadulterated ingredients found in Mother Natural’s Garden,” according Herr Foods, Inc., Nottingham, Pa. Snacks from the label include Garlic Parmesan and Sea Salt Kettle Cooked Potato Chips.
Meet You at the Bar-B
Another place to look for love — other than on a reality TV show, of course — is at get-togethers with family and friends. Come summer, the best spot for seeking out the opposite sex is at a barbecue, where you also will find the ubiquitous BBQ chip.
Note: Like men and women, all BBQ chips are not created equal. Varieties range from rib-flavored to sweet barbecue to honey-injected.
For example, earlier this year, Herr Foods — maker of the Philly Cheese Steak chip — rolled out Herr’s brand kettle-cooked potato chips flavored like baby back ribs “without the mess.” According to the company: “Meat and potatoes are staples of the American diet, and Herr’s has found a way to combine these two popular tastes into one flavorful product.”
In March, Snyder of Berlin unveiled its own Barbecue Rib Flavored Potato Chip.
Recently, Snyder’s of Hanover (no relation to Snyder of Berlin), Hanover, Pa., added a Honey Bar-B-Que variety to its Snyder’s of Hanover and Husman’s brands, as well.
Then there’s Detroit’s own Better Made Snack Foods, which is known throughout Michigan for its potato chips, including a Sweet BBQ variety and Cathy’s Creamy BBQ, two distinct flavors that pack less heat than most BBQ chips, but are no less flavorful.
And for consumers looking to cool down, Poore Brothers’ BBQ Ranch Chips might be just the trick.
Going to Extremes
Speed dating, personal ads, Match.com … Some people go to great lengths in their search for love.
Chip producers go to extremes, as well, when it comes to creating flavorful products that push the envelope.
Catering to that school of thought is Shearer’s Foods, whose Shearer’s Chipotle Cheese Kettle-Cooked Potato Chips “are one of our best flavor extensions ever,” according to Smith. In 2008, Shearer’s will launch another tasty flavor: Parmesan Garlic.
New flavors from the Poore Brothers brand are equally adventurous. Its Sweet Maui Onion Chips combine the rich taste of Russet potatoes with sweet, savory Maui onions, which only grow in the rich volcanic soil of Haleakala, Hawaii. And its new Sonoran Salsa variety brings the flavor of zesty salsa to a potato chip, instead of the more predictable tortilla chip.
“We’re trying to make the food a little more fun, a little more interactive,” says Steve Sklar, senior vice president of marketing for The Inventure Group, which classifies its products as “Intensely Different.”
For example, the group’s T.G.I.Friday’s snack line offers the entrée-in-a-snack Cheese Pizza Chips. The Inventure Group also produces Boulder Canyon potato chips, featuring the following new flavors: Balsamic Vinegar & Rosemary and Spinach & Artichoke.
But nobody does extreme flavor quite like Kettle Foods. According to vice president of marketing Michelle Peterman, Kettle “is always focusing on making the best-tasting chip … chips that are worth talking about.”
Case in point:Kettle Brand Krinkle Cut Chips’ new Island Jerk variety with “Jammin’ Jamaican Spice,” which recently was named winner of what Peterman calls Kettle’s “most exciting People Choice” Awards ever. Runners-up were Dragon 5 Spice and Twisted Chili Lime. Check out next year’s competition online at www.KettleFoods.com.
With so many chips from which to choose, which one will win the favor of consumers shopping those final rows? It’s difficult to say. However, like hopefuls on “The Bachelor,” Malkoski says, “Consumers will experience different chips, but, ultimately, they find the chip they love.” SOI
Boys Are Dumb. Girls Are Evil.
When it comes to dating, someone once said: “Boys are dumb. Girls are evil.” The male masterminds behind LesserEvil’s Krinkle Sticks challenge that premise.
The brand’s new all-natural baked snacks are made from real potatoes and come in four flavors: Classic SeaSalt, SourCream & Onion, Old School Bar-B-Que and Cajun KaBOOM! A single serving has 75% less fat than leading potato chips.
“You see a lot of people reaching for baked chips made with less fat,” says Kyser Thompson, chief storyteller for LesserEvil Brand Snack Co., Tuckahoe, N.Y. “While many of these newer baked chips are good, we felt we could make a healthier potato snack without compromising on the great crunch and taste regular chips offer.”
Krinkle Sticks contain just 110 calories per serving and are free of trans fats, saturated fats, cholesterol and preservatives.
“But they’re seasoned and shaped so fantastically that consumers are telling us they hardly believe the nutritionals,” Thompson notes.
There’s nothing dumb about that.