If i had to pick two things in this world that i was most powerless when faced with, it would be promo and chips. Promo is great because everybody wins. I get free shit, you get to advertise and i get free shit. Chips are great because they are always tasty, come in a wide variety of flavours and cuts and they hold that irresistible quality that blurs the line between a full blown snack or an extremely cheap meal. In separate forms both of these entities are more than capable of holding my attention and when combined there's little i wouldn't do, or few people i wouldn't kill to get to them.
Therefore, you could imagine my delight when i stumbled into IGA this morning and my half awake gaze was directed to yet another Smith's collaborative project. Ahh, good old Smith's. We've been together a long time and as insane as it sounds you're one of the only things in my life that has been both constant and completely awesome, aside from myself. Free Tazo's, the Full Monty, the unsuccesful yet always exciting 'Gourmet Projects', Vegemite flavour, packaging updates and movie promos. There's little else Smith's could do to claim complete monopoly over the potato chip industry and no company before or after them will ever do it with so much flair.
Which brings me to the 'Do us a flavour' promotion. I heard about this a while ago and was tempted to enter had i not been held back by laziness and memory loss. The concept is far from fresh and is basically another 'design your own flavour' competition, allowing those of us that don't work in the potato chip industry to essentially design our own flavours. The winner of the flavour fight will not only come out with a cool $30,000 but also a 1% stake in the sales of their flavour. 1%? You're too kind Smith's. The only difference between Smith's version and past attempts by other large snack food conglomerates is that Smith's actually followed through with it. So many times i've heard about these types of competitions and then months will pass and nobody will ever see a resulting new flavour designed by a member of the general public. It's like these companies think that nobody will notice a few months after the inital advertisement and the people that did enter will just assume that someone else won the competition. Way to play on our ignorance, successful snack food board of advertising.
With Smith's keeping their word and actually delivering on the outcome of their competition, four new flavours have emerged from four different contestants. With four different contestants from four different walks of life comes a chance for Smith's to be as politically correct as a large company can be and for the most part, they've done a pretty spot on job with that. Here's a quick run down of those contestants.
Weapon of Choice: Buttered Popcorn.
Mood Colour: Hearty casual yellow.
Steve is your typical middle-aged aussie bloke, not afraid to rock a beard but also not afraid to keep it in check. Steve enjoys hanging out with his two daughters with a movie and some popcorn, hence his obvious decision to combine chips and popcorn. I foresee Steve having a pretty big advantage with the hard-working, movie watching percentage of Aussie blokes.
Weapon of Choice: BBQ coat of arms.
Mood Colour: Zany soft red.
Vinnie is your typical young aussie bloke. Judging by his picture, he's a little crazy, but happy at the same time. Vinnie's girlfriend is a vegan, so he thought he'd stick it to her with a smokey, traditional and carnivorous defiance of her lifestyle choices. Vinnie is a bit of a wild card entry, his concoction seems to be more of a play on Australian iconography than a new flavour. However, Aussie Blokes love barbecues so it could really go either way!
Weapon of Choice: Ceasar Salad.
Mood Colour: Empowerment Forrest green.
Being a 'yummy mummy' is a full time job, so everyone at Smith's was delighted when Aline found the time to create her zesty little number for the judges. Combining something i hate (salad) with something i love (chips) is definitely a bold move, but Aline could definitely pull in some votes from the men and the women for being a bit of a stunner and the only woman in the competition.
Weapon of Choice: Late night kebab.
Mood colour: Comfortable cool purple.
Lucas is your typical young Aussie bloke. As you can see, he's a bit of a party animal and appreciates a solid kebab at the end of the night as much as he does the touch of a typical young Aussie woman. Late night kebabs tend to taste better than kebabs of any other time frame and we can only hope that Lucas' creation doesn't suffer the same fate as most late night kebabs (vomit)!
So you've got your four contestants and as a collective they're looking pretty diverse yet essentially all the same at the same time. Where you'd probably be mislead though, is in thinking that any of these four people (or the manufacturers of the chips for that matter) are capable of designing an edible Smith's potato chip. I was so excited about this competition when i first saw the promotional Smith's stall, standing there like it didn't mind being away from all the other chips because it knew it was more than capable of holding it down in front of the frozen party pies section, or anywhere in the market for that matter. I did a little Michael Jackson crotch grab to thriller pose routine inside the supermarket and everyone started clapping, then i snatched all four flavours and skipped to the counter whistling the theme song from the Sound of Music. I was whistling so hard that you could actually see the notes as they left my mouth. The notes then floated up to the heavens and burst like little musical bubbles. A trail of magic anticipation dust followed me all the way home. The dust and the notes instantly faded when i tasted Steve's buttered popcorn. Which brings me to the most important part of this post. The important part.
Steve's Buttered Popcorn.
Smells like: Buttered popcorn with a hint of being left out in the sun.
Tastes like: Gag reflex. I'm not even joking. I have no idea how they managed to mess up the most promising flavour but it's like the butter they used had been saturated in butter and then injected with more butter prior to being cooked. I can only imagine how hard it is to imitate the taste of corn. It tasted like disappointment.
How they could have made it better: Less butter. I wouldn't have minded if it tasted more like salt than butter because salt is an essential part of the Smith's regime and is therefore capable of saving any flavour, no matter how unnatural it tastes.
Would i eat it again? Most certainly not. One glance at the off yellow packaging the morning after had me running to the bathroom like i was in the early stages of pregnancy.
Vinnies BBQ Coat of Arms.
Smells Like: Lay's Texas BBQ but not as overwhelmingly awesome.
Tastes Like: A lack of effort. I think Smith's forgot that the packaging isn't edible and that the time allocated to the design of the logo for this idea would have been much better spent on creating an authentic tasting Australian barbecue chip. I tried to eat the logo and it tasted worse than Vinnie's BBQ but better than Steve's popcorn.
How they could have made it better: Three words. Tomato Fucking Sauce. It's so simple. Atomic Tomato or Heinz Tomato sauce flavoured chips will forever be remembered as two golden eras in snack food history. It might not be original, but all you had to do was sneak some of Australia's favourite condiment in amongst whatever else you guys jammed in there and the chip would have been more than edible and a formidable entrant in this competition.
Would i eat it again? Possibly. Like, if it was on the table at a friend's house and they had ignored my requests for different flavours or if nobody else had brought Salt 'n' Vinegar then yeah, i'd have a couple and complain about it.
Aline's Caesar Salad
Smells like: Herbs. But not real ones.
Tastes Like: Herbs. Something you'd offer a vegetarian at a movie night. Having said that though, the flavour did contain traces of another famous chip and a personal favourite of mine, Thins 'Light n Tangy'. It is this similarity that convinced me not to immediately hate Aline's flavour. A good summer chip should your local supermarket run out of Thins 'Light n Tangy'.
How they could have made it better: I can't help but wonder if this flavour was born to be on a thin sliced crisp as opposed to a crinkle cut. This is the kind of flavour you want to jump out at you but unfortunately the deep crevasses of the crinkle cut chip acted as bunkers for the spicy ingredients to hide in. My taste-buds were the rescue squad, but the herbs were too content to just perish in anonymity amongst the shade of their salty barriers.
Would i eat it again? Yes. But only on a thin sliced crisp. Maybe again on a crinkle cut for the same reason i'd eat one of Vinnies BBQ chips.
Lucas's Late Night Kebab.
Smells like: Body odour, onions, uncertainty.
Tastes like: Actually pretty good. Despite it's shortcomings in the initial scent department, Lucas has come up with a pretty accessible flavour. I'm going to put this down to the ridiculous amount of different ingredients that have gone into the production of this chip and not the quest for an authentic tasting late night kebab. I call it the 'Full Monty' syndrome. Jam as many flavours into one thing as possible and you're bound to get it right eventually or simply confuse your customers to the point of admitting defeat. Had this chip actually tasted like a late night kebab i wouldn't have reviewed it, kebab stands repulse me. They're like a central hub for all the worst characteristics of mankind to gather together and eat something that, much like themselves, is going to fall apart within a matter of minutes. Of course, i'm basing this on kebab stands at night, i've never felt the need for a kebab during the day.
How they could have made it better: Name change. Lucas should have swapped names with Steve and called it Steve's Souvlaki or something. As previously mentioned, late night kebabs don't really conjure up images of great taste and family fun.
Would i eat it again? Probably. Not sure really. Maybe.
And the winner? Well, it's like picking your favourite mental illness isn't it. No matter which one you pick, it's still not cool. Unfortunately for Smith's the idea of letting a bunch of anons create their dream chip has ended in four mediocre flavours that are probably going to get pulled within a matter of weeks, not unlike the Mother energy drinks before it or Vegemite's edgy new name proposition, i personally see this particular marketing campaign as a strike on Smith's otherwise impeccable reputation. I'm going to let Aline have this one, but only because her chip reminded me of another product of much better quality and somehow confused my taste-buds into thinking it was better than it was.
Overall though, the real winner is me. This post marks the first time i was ever able to go into a supermarket and cop every flavour of a single product at the same time and not feel bad about it. I can only imagine how great i looked to the checkout operators.