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Why is there so much air in that bag of potato chips? Here's the scientific reason

Reaching into a freshly-opened bag of chips leaves many snackers wondering, what's with all the empty space?
/ Source: Today

With barbecue season in full swing, chip lovers everywhere are constantly grabbing for this salty side. Of course, anyone who regularly purchases bagged snacks knows what it's like to be woefully disappointed after popping open a sack and finding it literally half (or even a third) full.

It’s a question as old as time: why is there so much air in my bag of chips?

Now, a new study from Kitchen Cabinet Kings has busted open which brands have the most air in their bags and also shed some light on why all that extra space is necessary.

The results, detailed in an infographic, named both the most chip-filled bag and the airiest one, while disproving a big modern food myth.

As it turns out, the “air” in snack bags isn’t just air at all. It’s taste-preserving nitrogen that fights off staleness and protects bags from pre-snack time squashing. Who knew?!

The process of filling bags with nitrogen even has a name — it's called “slack fill.” While this benign practice “fills” the bag, it also leaves stomachs empty and hungry shoppers disappointed.

Potato chips, air, bag
Snack bags full of air leave stomachs empty!Getty Images

The chip lovers at Kitchen Cabinet Kings, a New York City-based cabinet company, conducted this non-scientific study using some middle school-science knowledge of water displacement to measure the nitrogen-to-chip ratio in bags of 14 of America’s top-selling chip brands. They surrendered the chips and crunched the numbers — a true sacrifice for chip lovers everywhere.

The results? Cheetos, Ruffles and Stacy’s Pita Chips had a larger air-to-snack ratio than other brands, meaning you might not be getting as much bang (or cheesy, finger-dusted goodness) for your buck.

According to the study, a bag of Cheetos is 41 percent snack and 59 percent taste-preserving air. Ruffles and Stacy’s just broke even, measuring half air, half chip.

The chips that offered the best bang for the buck were Fritos, Pringles and Tostitos. They had the highest chip-to-empty-space ratio, with air percentages ranging from 34 percent to just 19 percent in a Fritos bag.

Potato chip bags
A fresh bag of Lays is 41 percent air. That's slightly better than average for the classic chip!Getty Images

“It's best to consider the average at 43 percent,” Kitchen Cabinet Kings said in a press release. “Anything above that certainly seems like a rip off and anything below that is just a pleasant surprise.”

If you think that buying a better-for-you snack means you're getting more crunchy goodness for your money, think again. The air-filling habit afflicted the healthiest and the most caloric chips equally.

Kitchen Cabinet Kings reiterated that “unless chips are sold vacuum sealed, there's really no way to get around a nitrogen-stuffed bag. Even the brands that offer you the most bang for your buck are still going to have a bit of air."

The only cure for this salty sadness? Another bag of chips, of course.

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