Frito-Lay launched its first deep-ridged potato chip in the US and Canada under its Ruffles brand in 2012, but has since launched Walkers and Lay’s deep-ridged variants in other markets, including the UK and Iberia.
By the end of last year the chip concept was available in nine countries and PepsiCo said it would drive that number up to more than 20 global markets by the end of 2014.
Currently available in 14 countries including the US, Canada, Mexico, UK, Spain, Netherlands, Australia, India and Thailand, Frito-Lay's deep-ridged chips will be rolled out in Argentina, Ecuador, Colombia, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, among others in 2014.
It also outlined plans to roll out deep-ridged chips to additional global markets in 2015 but said it was too early to specify markets.
Frito-Lay said the patent-pending, deep-ridged chip design had contributed to business growth and created a competitive gap; one that would be further sealed when its international patent was granted.
A handful of other potato chip brands including Kettle, McCoy's and Boulder Canyon also have corrugated or 'crinkle-cut' chips on the market. In 2013, Ruffles held an 8% market share of the global potato chip market, according to Euromonitor International data.
Patenting the process to secure a competitive edge
Keith Barber, the senior Frito-Lay engineer who headed up the deep-ridged project, filed an international and US patent last year for the process to manufacture the ridged (or corrugated) potato chips; a method that took around a year to optimize.
Frito-Lay said the shape, texture and crunch of the deep-ridged chips were unique and therefore the patent applications aimed “to create a competitive advantage”.
“There remains a need in the art for additional corrugated food products with a texture that consumers find appealing while also enabling uniform finished moisture after dehydration steps to produce shelf stable snack food products,” Barber and his team wrote in the international filing.
“The corrugated snack food products should also be strong enough to be used as carriers for dip and resist breakage,” they continued.
Barber said there were clear design challenges, particularly when the goal was to develop a ‘heartier’ chip for male consumers.
“Usually hearty means thicker. When you do that, it doesn’t deliver a nice texture. So the question was, how do we design a chip hearty, while keeping it thin?” he said.
Intensive designing and testing…
The R&D team used computer aided 3D printing technology to design nine prototypes to test with male consumers.
“These chips scored some of the highest consumer response scores that we had seen in decades,” Barber said. “This lit a fire under all of us to really push hard on this chip concept,” he added.
Following extensive attempts to create a slicing blade that could be used on existing chip manufacturing equipment, the teams finally optimized the design.