Popcorn? I’ll pass. Doritos? Not really my thing. Potato chips, however? Those are my kryptonite — so you can probably imagine what my reaction was to finding out that Lay’s Tastes Of America potato chips will feature eight brand new, never-before-seen flavors, each inspired by the unique delicacies of the United States’ many diverse regions. I just about started drooling all over my keyboard — and then I found out that one of those eight flavors was a fried pickle-flavored potato chip, and, well… let’s just say that I am a little bit in need of a napkin right now.
Funny story: Even though Lay’s is known today for their creative, often customer-suggested flavor options, that wasn’t always the case; indeed, from 1932, when Herman W. Lay first created Lay’s, until the ‘70s, the only two flavors available were Original and Barbecue. The '70s were when Sour Cream & Onion arrived. Heck, Barbecue wasn’t even introduced until 1958, which means that for over 30 years, the only potato chip Lay's made was, y'know, actually potato-flavored.
Starting in 2012, however, all that began to change. That was when Lay’s launched the very first Do Us A Flavor contest, which asked fans to submit their ideas for unusual flavors they’d like to see the brand produce next. In early 2013, the finalists were announced — Cheesy Garlic Bread, Sriracha, and Chicken & Waffles — at which point consumers voted for their favorite among the three. The creator of the winning flavor won $1 million or one percent of the flavor’s net sales for 2013 — whichever number was higher — and saw their creation join the Lay’s line on grocery store shelves. Karen Weber-Mendham of Wisconsin ultimately won for her suggestion, Cheesy Garlic Bread.
The contest has returned several times since then, introducing such flavors as Kettle Cooked Wasabi Ginger, Southern Biscuits and Gravy, Indian Tikka Masala, and — perplexingly — Cappuccino… but now, Lay’s is pulling out all the stops (and all on their own steam, too): With Lay’s Tastes Of America, the company is launching eight brand new flavors inspired by regional specialties from across the United States — the greatest number of new flavors the brand has ever introduced at once.
Starting on July 30, each of the eight flavors will be available in their home markets through Sept. 23; or, you can order all eight of ‘em no matter where you happen to be, thanks to the beauty of online shopping. Lay’s will also be making their way to local food festivals around the country starting July 20 to introduce the flavors to the public — with a little help from Hannah Hart of My Drunk Kitchen and I Hart Food fame. (Heck yes.) AND, a few runners up from Do Us A Flavor contests and other programs gone by will be making their way back to the limelight again, too, including West Coast Truffle Fries, Ketchup, and Fried Green Tomato.
You can check out all eight flavors below — but first, I would like to draw attention to one in particular: Fried Pickles with Ranch. It’s not that pickles ever really went out of style, but pickle-flavored everything has certainly been having a moment lately: Canned pickle brine, pickle doughnuts, pickle freeze pops... you name it, it’s probably been pickle-fied at some point in the recent past. It was only a matter of time before it hit the world of potato chips, right? My bet is that this flavor is going to be the big hit of the bunch, but I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see if that turns out to be true.
In the meantime, though, here are all eight of the Lay’s Tastes Of America flavors that will be arriving at the end of July:
1. New England Lobster Roll
Where else would this on be available but the Northeast? It’s meant to mimic not just lobster, but also the taste of a buttery grilled roll — without which no lobster roll would be complete. Look out for it at the Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland, Maine from Aug. 1 through the 5th.
2. Chesapeake Bay Crab Spice
Nobody loves Old Bay like Maryland loves Old Bay, so of course the Chesapeake Bay Crab Spice flavor is coming to the Mid-Atlantic region. Pay attention if you head to the Chesapeake Crab and Beer Festival in National Harbor, Md. on Aug. 18.
3. Fried Pickles with Ranch
Are you in the Midwest? Good news — this one will be ay for you to find. In particular, check out the Missouri State Fair in Sedalia, Mo. from August 16 through the 18th.
4. Pimento Cheese
I don’t really understand the draw of pimento cheese, but then again, I am not from the Southeast. If you are, maybe “the taste of creamy sharp cheddar with a hint of cayenne pepper” gets you feelin’ some kind of way. Look for it at the Shrimp and Grits Festival at Jekyll Island in Georgia Sept. 14 to the 16th.
5. Cajun Spice
Uh, yes please. In the Central Gulf region, Cajun Spice will bring a mix of garlic, paprika, onion, and oregano to your chip-eating experience — especially if you heat to the Louisiana Shrimp and Petroleum Festival in Morgan City, La., Aug. 31 through Sept. 2.
6. Deep Dish Pizza
Of course the Heartland and Mid-America would have a Deep Dish Pizza-flavored chip; that’s where deep dish pizza is from, after all. (I’ll admit I’m not totally sure what would make a Deep Dish Pizza chip different from a regular Pizza chip, but… eh, semantics.) Check it out at Navy Pier in Chicago on Aug. 11.
7. Chile Con Queso
In Texoma, Mountain, and Southern California, “velvety cheddar queso with a dash of spice” is the name of the game. Get to know it at the Houston Food Festival in Houston, Texas on Aug. 18.
8. Thai Sweet Chili
And lastly, we have the Pacific Northwest’s chip, Thai Sweet Chili, which was apparently inspired by the region’s robust food truck scene. It’ll be making an appearance at Bite of Seattle from July 20 through the 22nd.
And remember, you’ll be able to order all eight flavors directly from Lay’s online — so if you have the burning desire to eat pickle-flavored chips, but aren’t located in the Midwest, you can absolutely make that happen. Happy munching!