March 1, 2016

Lay's Flavor Swap proves new isn't always better

There can be only four winners.
OK, foodies, you've had enough time to try Lay's slate of four new flavors under its "Flavor Swap" fresh-chip-versus-existing-chip competition.

Now it's time for me to weigh in. The timing of this isn't as easy as it sounds, you know. You need time to try the chips and make up your mind in case you want independence from my editorials. But I want to get my thoughts out there before voting closes March 21.

This time around, my thoughts aren't just informed by my palate. The official wife of Rick's Food Critique (who used to be the official fiance of Rick's Food Critique, who used to be the official girlfriend of Rick's Food Critique) sampled the slate of chips to offer an additional perspective. Perhaps surprisingly, we agreed more than we disagreed.

If there's one theme to this Flavor Swap, it's that new is not always better. Now without further ado, here's the full rundown.

Heat Flavor Swap: Lay’s Flamin’ Hot vs. new Lay’s Fiery Roasted Habanero
Theme or no theme, new ends up being much better here. Neither of us were sure how Flamin' Hot has made it as a Lay's flavor, owing to its monotone heat, bitter aftertaste and satanic neon red color. Fiery Roasted Habanero was a little less hot but compensated with a nice, sweet habanero tone.

Cheese Flavor Swap: Lay’s Cheddar & Sour Cream vs. new Lay’s Smoked Gouda & Chive
The stalwart wins here, as it's virtually impossible to beat sour cream and cheddar. The challenger chip wouldn't have been too bad if not for an overpowering smoke drowning out everything else. With the smoke cloud looming over the chip, the Gouda could have been any cheese.

Barbecue Flavor Swap: Lay’s Honey Barbecue vs. new Lay’s Korean Barbecue
My wife and I split on this one. I preferred the Korean Barbecue owing to its semblance to pork belly, while she found more soy sauce than Seoul. Neither of us thought it too accessible as a flavor. On the Honey Barbecue side, we both thought it a generic, mild chip with some sweetness. She just ranked them differently than I did. But we both agreed it was a close call.

Spice Flavor Swap: Lay’s Kettle Cooked Sea Salt & Cracked Pepper vs. new Lay’s Kettle Cooked Olive Oil & Herbs
Olive oil wins big here. It makes the chips heavier in grease while still adding some lighter tones, and it pairs nicely with a blast of oregano and thyme. Just don't look for basil, because you won't find it. You won't find much of note in the Sea Salt and Pepper chip bag, either. They're fine, but they basically taste like regular potato chips with an unevenly distributed blast of seasoning that comes out every chip or two.

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