LAY'S 'Bistro Gourmet Sharp Cheddar & Jalapeño potato chips'
|Executive summary: Some like it hot, including me|
I'm not much of a potato chip eater as junk foods go—I lean towards pretzels, tortilla chips, and have a weakness for fried Cheetos—but I enjoy them now and then. 'Bistro Gourmet' seems to be a new Frito Lay brand of expensive flavored potato chips. I tried them the other day.
They aren't bad. They're hotter than I expected, which I like. Mass market food in the US tends to be bland, I suppose because market research has shown that most people like bland food: look at the shelves of salsa the next time you go to the supermarket, for example. If you're in the East, you will probably see lots and lots bottles of salsa labeled 'Mild', a few 'Medium', but very few, if any, 'Hot'. Well, 'Sharp Cheddar & Jalapeño' definitely has a bite to it. A little, anyway. If it were a salsa, it would be a 'Medium' hot one at best, but as potato chips go, they're fairly hot. Nice salty/smoky flavor to it, too, with some cheesy taste. You can't reproduce a true cheese taste in a chip, but these aren't bad.
I enjoyed them, and if you like snack food like this, you might like them, too. They're on the pricey side, US$2.59 at Acme for a 9 oz bag.
Upscale junk food seems to be a difficult market to crack. Every supermarket has a rack of blue corn tortilla chips, hand-twisted pretzels, and other interesting oddities at very high prices, but I don't think there have been any successful upscale junk food lines from major manufacturers. The only one I can think of was Eagle Snack Foods by Anheuser-Busch. It lasted through the 80's, but the division was sold off in the early 90's, and I haven't seen Eagle products in supermarkets since. Too bad, they had some decent stuff. Maui-style potato chips, for example, which were pretty good.
Maybe the market just isn't that big, big enough to support a few boutique manufacturers, but not big enough to be worth it for the majors. There's probably a small number of price-insensitive buyers, who will buy interesting and unusual new food, but I suspect to most shoppers, junk foods are commodities: shoppers have zero brand loyalty, and will purchase whatever brand offers the best value per ounce.