Why America chose Wasabi Ginger Lay’s – and why snack makers need to run to the lab…

By Kacey Culliney

- Last updated on GMT

... get the lab coat on and develop next-generation snacks
... get the lab coat on and develop next-generation snacks

Related tags Spice

America has voted: they want wasabi ginger Lay’s chips. No big surprise, but a vote that should see snack makers running back to the lab to dream up ‘new’.

New? Yep, new. Because wasabi ginger is not new – it’s a novel combination, but slots into the spice craze very comfortably. 

Granted, it fought off competition from capuccino, bacon mac & cheese and mango salsa in this year's US Do Us A Flavor competition from snack titan Frito-Lay, but come on America – you’ve had spice​! From sriracha to the classic red chili and paprika to jalapeno, snackers’ taste buds have been suitably tanged for a while.

But, the consumer seems to be happy in the spice zone, albeit arguably more refined. Wasabi cracks the front of the tongue, shrieks up the nostrils and stings the eyes, which is pretty complex when paired with ginger that then heats the throat slowly, leaving a warm, rich aftertaste after all.

Trading spices, dreaming difference

From a business standpoint the Lay’s vote is good news for snack makers. All the hard formulation and sensory work in spices is on trend and will continue to generate revenues in the near future.

But from an innovation standpoint, I think the vote is an early warning that R&D snack efforts need to be ramped up – outside the box​. Now, I’m not the first person in the world to say this – only earlier this year Snyder’s Lance said industry had to go beyond hot and spicy​ and Elite Spice said when sticking to spice, efforts had to be more original.


Spiced chips have now moved into the old-time favorites aisle alongside friends salted, cheese and onion and paprika (salt and vinegar for all the British snackers).

Let’s innovate and deliver new concepts; reinvented concepts; mad mixtures to lure the punters away from the same flavor, different chip habit.

You’re probably thinking – well what great flavor idea has she got in mind? And I don’t have the exact answer to that, or I’d be in a very different job... But, I do have some ideas, or shall we say ‘educated guesswork’.

Second-guessing the consumer

Consumers won’t be attracted to something too different; too outside the comfort zone. Sure, they’ll go and buy a bag of cappuccino chips or spiced apple and Earl Grey tea (I should trademark that) once, but they’re unlikely to return in their masses and adorn their cupboard with these flavors, and they certainly won't do so on a regular basis.

Consumer snacking potato chips

Consumers like comfort. And snacking for many is a comfort. They need familiar flavor undertones, popular ingredients and something they will crave next time.

To make a ‘new’ every day chip flavor is no easy feat. It takes research but also hindsight, I think. Look back at the old favorites – what do they have in common? Where is the appeal? What parts could be used as a springboard to new concepts? Think flavors AND aromas.

Drawing inspiration from success stories in other countries​ - or even other sectors like chocolate - could also be a starting point – just keep in mind that each market has its own local flavor preferences.

I think the spice craze still has time – so enjoy it and get as creative as possible within this space because competition is sure heating up (see what I did there?).

But remember, in not-so-long-a-time… your trusty consumer will eventually turn around and say, "okay, what have you got that’s new?" That is the moment when you’ll be glad you took the Lay’s wasabi ginger nod and ran back to the lab…

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1 comment

Spice IS Nice!

Posted by Danny Grossman,

Here at SLOW Food for Fast Lives with out savory, globally inspired real food bars, we could not agree more. Snacks are replacing meals and they have to taste like them!

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