A World of Varieties - North America
It is perhaps unsurprising that the North American Potato Chips and Crisps market is dominated by US companies, with Lay’s owning as much of a market share as it does in the States. It is also, therefore understandable that flavors and tastes are fairly similar.
With that in mind, taking the US as the central point for Potato Chips distribution, the preferred flavors and tastes can arguably be best assessed by best sellers by region.
While BBQ is very popular in the south, the north sees good sales of traditional salt based flavors of thicker Chips and Kettle Chips. Similar, thick Chips sell well in the north east of the country, but the popular flavors are more varied.
It could be presumed that in the south east, flavors such as New Orleans Cajun and Mid-Atlantic crab would be most popular, and while people of that region like a spicier flavor in larger quantity that mid-westerners, the usual flavors pretty much unite the States.
The South West gets a little spicier, with Jalapeno and Habanero a regularly featured ingredient of popular Chips. Overall, the most popular varieties would probably be Sour cream & Onion, Barbecue, Ranch Dressing, Salt & Vinegar, and Cheddar & Sour Cream.
To trim it down further, just as with any foodstuff, regional delicacies exist – So while Utz’s Salt & Malt is a good seller in New England and environs, In New Orleans, Zapp's makes Spicy Cajun Crawtaters, and in Pennsylvania you will find Philly Cheesesteak Chips.
Hawaiians appear to like a bit of erm, punch to their non-traditional flavors, and Sweet Maui Onion and Hawaiian Wasabi fit into the regional varieties category.
The major Potato Chips manufacturers know their market and regional flavors are produced in the hope they can go mainstream – the Californian origination of Limon (Lime) flavor, and its Hispanic marketing intentions, has spread nationwide and is also available in other countries.
As we venture north into Canada, it is worth noting that Old Dutch, for example, began life in Minnesota, but grabbed a decent slice of the Canadian market with a plant in Manitoba. You could probably take their list of Canadian market flavors as a fair assessment of the most popular flavors in general: Original, BBQ, Salt 'n' Vinegar, Sour Cream and Onion, Ketchup, Dill Pickle, Cheddar and Sour Cream, Crispy Bacon, Buffalo Wings, Onion n' Garlic, Creamy Dill, Mexican Chili, Au Gratin, Spicy Chili Ketchup.
Humpty Dumpty echo these flavors in many respects, with the odd bit of Pizza or Fries & Gravy thrown into the mix.
Canada's largest food retailer, Loblaw has a range of chips under its President's Brand label, including Greek Feta & Olive, Jamaican Jerk Chicken, Ball Park Hot Dog and Barbecue Baby Back Ribs.
Returning to Limon flavor in Mexico, two of the dominant non Lay’s companies include Barcel and Sabritas, who, between them produce such delights as Chipotle, Con Queso (which sounds much better than with Cheese), Chile and Lime, Jalapeno, Guacamole, and even a Shrimp Taco.
The Caribbean features companies and flavors familiar to Americans. A West Indies snapshot could feature Antigua, where you might find Lay’s, Wise, Herr’s, Smallfoods, and Fillers.
Ironically, there are more ‘Caribbean style’ flavors to be found throughout the world, such as Lay’s Caribbean & Balsamic Vinegar, or Wise’s Crazy Calypso Sweet & Spicy Caribbean Style, than the Caribbean market is too bothered about; the usual barbecue, spicy and salt based flavors dominate preferences - Having said that, Sweet Potato and Plantain Chips are also very popular.
Guatemala is the fourth most populous country in North America, so although the US brands have a solid profile there is room for home-grown companies, and Rick’s provide a range of traditional flavors with further concentration on other snacks such as Plantain Chips, Onion Rings and Cheesy Balls. You will find other vegetable snacks in abundance, including Eggplant and Cassava.
Potato Chips are not a major snack option in Cuba, with a preference for Plantain or Yuca Chips. Salt based flavoured Chips are however fairly popular, as are Chicharrones, or fried pork skins, as they would be known in an English speaking country.
Chicharonnes are not just popular in Cuba, the lead photo is from Mexican company Bokados' range.