A game of potato chips

Laurenz Moore, Staff Writer

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For the past three years, Lay’s, the potato chip company, has been allowing their fans to decide on a new flavor submitted by other fans. This year, Lay’s has put forth four new combatants going up against four veteran flavors. In a new promotional event dubbed Lay’s Flavor Swap, those interested in how their potato chips taste can have a voice in what will change the market for the upcoming year.

The eight flavors involved have been separated in four battles based on a general theme. From fan votes alone, four flavors will be inducted or eliminated from Lay’s roster of delicious potato chips. Below are the four matchups and what I believe should be the winner.

Battle 1: The Hottest Showdown in Town

Flamin’ Hot (Veteran) vs. Fiery Roasted Habanero (Newcomer)

Before this new promotion, I had never heard of Lay’s Flamin’ Hot flavor. I had never seen it in stores nor had heard of anyone who had tried it. To my surprise, Lay’s Flamin’ Hot chips taste exactly like Chester’s Flamin’ Hot Fries. It’s a very faint taste and one that becomes invisible with more chips eaten. Primarily, these chips taste of heat and nothing else. If one’s tongue is not too sensitive, then these chips serve a somewhat adequate snacking experience. However, Flamin’ Hot just isn’t a very memorable or delectable flavor.

In my mind, Fiery Roasted Habanero is the product when one asks if there was a way to give Flamin’ Hot chips any flavor. There’s an added hint of pepper but still an improvement. Ultimately, it comes down to this: no flavor with heat or some flavor with heat. In my opinion, Fiery Roasted Habanero’s extra, albeit small, pepper taste gives it the slight edge over Flamin’ Hot. Luckily though, Chester’s Flamin’ Hot Fires are in no danger of being pulled from the market and taste exactly the same as Flamin’ Hot Lay’s. Just eat those if a much-needed dose of heat-induced pain is desired.

Winner: Fiery Roasted Habanero (Newcomer)

Battle 2: The Kettle Cooked Conflict

Sea Salt & Cracked Pepper (Veteran) vs. Olive Oil & Herbs (Newcomer)

I’ve never been a huge fan of Lay’s Kettle Cooked line of chips. None of the flavors they introduced for the line were that memorable, and the over-crunchiness of the product did not appeal to me. I must be the only one, however, because everyone else I know seems to love them. Sea Salt & Cracked Pepper is essentially the original Lay’s potato chip taste with an added hint of spice thanks to the Cracked Pepper. These chips are the perfect borderline between the extreme and sublime which make them perfect for anyone and perfect for snacking in alarmingly large amounts.

Olive Oil & Herbs are hypothetically the same chip. The olive oil gives no flavor and relies on the herbs to give it the small punch of zest. The taste has a much more familiar flavor to it, especially if you frequent Italian restaurants. Despite this, these chips actually have less of a flavor than their opponents. The taste of the olive oil definitely overpower whatever “herbs” Lay’s put into the recipe. All in all, Olive Oil & Herbs basically serve as a less intense version of Sea Salt & Cracked Pepper, if you can call Sea Salt & Cracked Pepper intense in the first. It’s for this reason I give the edge to Sea Salt and Cracked Pepper.

Winner: Sea Salt & Cracked Pepper (Veteran)

Battle 3: The Cheesiest Debate Ever

Cheddar & Sour Cream (Veteran) vs. Smoked Gouda & Chive (Newcomer)

Cheddar & Sour Cream is a flavor I first experienced with the Ruffles brand of chips, so if this chip happens to lose, you can always pick up a bag of Cheddar & Sour Cream from Ruffles. The flavor itself is a nice mash-up of two tangy tastes. They taste like the outcome of accidentally dumping cheese dust on a pile of Sour Cream & Onion chips. It’s a very unique flavor and just tame enough to make it a very addicting chip. Ruffles’ version of the flavor features a very light sprinkle of the flavor powder which makes for a great tang of flavor in an otherwise average chip. Lay’s version is drenched in the flavor, leaving no vacant potato chip real estate. Every inch of the chip is completely orange. The flavor is very overbearing in the Lay’s counterpart, so I tend to stick with Ruffles’ version.

Smoked Gouda & Chive also packs a similarly pungent taste. The flavor is very reminiscent of Sour Cream & Onion. The light cheese addition gives off a taste of chicken carbonara, which I really enjoy. Like Ruffles’ Cheddar & Sour Cream, the somewhat intense flavor is lessened to a level where the flavor can be savored and enjoyed over and over again. Plus, unlike the Lay’s veteran, there is no cheesy aftertaste. Smoked Gouda & Chive wins this battle for being the better chip and improving on the problems Cheddar & Sour Cream had. Stick with the Ruffles’ brand if you seek this flavor. The light taste complements the potato much better.

Winner: Smoked Gouda & Chive (Newcomer)

Battle 4: The Battle of the BBQs

Honey Barbeque (Veteran) vs. Korean Barbeque (Newcomer)

Let’s get serious here for a second. Ever since I tried them a few years ago, Lay’s Honey Barbecue potato chips have been a staple part of my junk food and shame cabinet. Every visit to Walmart has resulted in me walking out with the golden bag of deliciousness in hand. The sweetness of the barbecue is less overbearing than their black-bagged cousin and is the absolutely perfect side snack for any sort of grilled sandwich pairing. They’re perfect on their own too and as addicting as a potato chip can be. They’ve remained an indulgence that I cherish very deeply and a main reason why my pudgy exterior stays the shape it is. Honey Barbecue is as perfect as a potato chip can get.

Going in completely biased towards voting for Honey Barbecue, I was still excited for Korean Barbecue. Korean barbecue, as a dining activity, is a very unique and delicious experience that everyone should try at least once in their life. Real-life Korean Barbecue features a nice meaty taste coupled with various sauces and a smoky flavor. Unfortunately, Lay’s Korean Barbecue focused more on the smoky flavor than the other parts of the dish. The smoky taste is near unbearable in this chip. It nears the territory of tasting like straight lighter fluid than something you would want to eat continuously. I honestly couldn’t get through a small handful of chips, let alone an entire bag. If this chip ends up winning against Honey Barbecue, I will never forgive Lay’s for getting rid of the clearly superior flavor. I’ll still buy their products though.

Winner: Honey Barbecue (Veteran)

This promotion ends within a few months and those interested can vote to save their favorites. Take what I’ve written here as mere suggestions as the best way to gauge the quality of these chips for yourself is to actually go out and try them. Happy tasting and may the best chips win.

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