Dining With Denise Neil

We tasted the weird Lays potato chip flavors so you don’t have to

Who will win the Lays “Do Us A Flavor” contest? Kettle Cooked Wasabi and Ginger? Cappuccino?
Who will win the Lays “Do Us A Flavor” contest? Kettle Cooked Wasabi and Ginger? Cappuccino? The Wichita Eagle

I have done you a flavor and taste tested the four finalists in the Lay’s weird chip contest, which lasts for just a few more weeks.

The company’s Do Us A Flavor” contest launched in July, and since then, local grocery and convenience store shelves have been stocked with four unusual flavors: Cheddar Bacon Mac & Cheese, Kettle Cooked Wasabi Ginger, Wavy Mango Salsa and Cappuccino.

The flavors were dreamed up by creative chip eaters, who submitted their ideas between January and April. The Frito Lay folks picked their four favorites and developed them. Now, they’re asking the public to help them decide which one to keep. Snackers can vote for their favorite once a day until Oct. 18. The person who submitted the winning flavor idea gets a $1 million grand prize.

This is the second year the company is putting on the contest. Last year’s winner, Cheesy Garlic Bread, earned Wisconsin librarian Karen Weber-Mendham $1 million. The other finalists on the first go-round were chicken and waffles and Sriracha-flavored. The Cheesy Garlic Bread chips are still available everywhere.

I bought a bag of each of the new flavors, opened them up in the newsroom, and conducted an old-fashioned taste test:

Cappuccino: This flavor was suggested by University of Nevada lecturer Chad Scott, who said he was inspired by his love of coffee. But the chips do not contain coffee or caffeine. Rather, they contain a flavor that should never be paired with a potato chip. I was hoping for a sort of sweet-and-salty match made in heaven, like when you dip a French fry in ice cream. But the chips were just ... weird. And they don’t taste enough like cappuccino or potato chips to make them worth the while. I not only could, but did, eat just one, and my co-workers were with me. Even though the bag sat open on a public table for days (and journalists will eat almost anything), I finally threw the bag away 3/4 full. Verdict: Cappu-no-no.

Cheddar Bacon Mac & Cheese: Ohio firefighter Matt Allen, whose bacon mac and cheese is a hit when he cooks it at the station, suggested this flavor. These chips weren’t bad, but they weren’t a lot different from any other cheese-flavored chip I’ve ever tried. The bacon flavor was almost impossible to detect. Though this bag was eventually emptied, most co-workers agreed with me that the chips were neither delightful nor disgusting. Verdict: We’re achin’ for more bacon.

Wavy Mango Salsa: California mom Julia Stanley-Metz and her family love Taco Tuesdays, and they’ve perfected their own mango salsa recipe, which they suggested as a potato chip flavor. At first, I wasn’t sure I liked the flavor, but I did like the heft of the wavy chip. So I tried another. And then another. And then another. And then I was fighting my desk mate for the last few crumbs. This chip is different and sweet in a good way. I could imagine an afternoon at the beach with a pina colada in one hand and a bag of Mango Wavy Lays in the other. Verdict: So weird it’s wonderful.

Kettle Cooked Wasabi Ginger: Meneko Spigner McBeth, a registered nurse and sushi fan living in Philadelphia, suggested this combination, which Lays wisely applied to a crunchy Kettle chip. The chip was slightly spicy but had an awesome Asian flavor that tasted just right with the texture. They were impossible to stop eating, and we agreed we’d buy them even if we weren’t conducting a weird chip taste test. Verdict: This is the winner.

So there you have it. It’s Kettle Cooked Wasabi Ginger, followed very, very closely by Mango Salsa. Take the taste test yourself and see what you think. You can vote at www.dousaflavor.com or by texting “BaconMac,” “Cappuccino,” “Mango” or “Wasabi” to 24477.

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