Like it or not, today’s Super Bowl Sunday has become as much of a food event as it has a sports event. The Super Bowl now ranks as the number two food consumption event of the year, second only to Thanksgiving!
So what’s the favorite food for the Super Bowl? Without a doubt, it’s got to be the chip.
According to Frito-Lay, the nation’s largest chip manufacturer, they must increase production in the weeks leading up to the event by more than 10 million pounds of chips just to meet the demand for Sunday’s viewing event. Add that to a normal week’s consumption and, according to ACNielsen Scantrack, that makes the chip business in supermarkets in the United States worth over $2.7 billion each year. Total sales, in all outlets everywhere in the U.S., including places like convenience stores, delis and ballparks, top $6 billion!
You could easily guess which segment of the chip business is growing the fastest… It’s the reduced fat varieties which last year grew over 25 percent — and that’s even before the "low-carb" chips hit the shelves.
Last year, Americans consumed over 1.85 billion pounds of chips as the potato chip officially celebrated its 150th birthday, and while today there are hundreds of brands and varieties lining the supermarket shelves; it is still the "plain" potato chip that remains the sales leader capturing over 80 percent of sales.
History of the chip
The potato chip hasn’t changed all that much since it was first invented back in 1853 by a cook by the name of George Crum in Saratoga Springs, New York.
Crum, worked at the Moon Lake Lodge, and according to folklore, didn’t much care for customers who complained and sent their food back to the kitchen. One such customer, reportedly Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, sent back his dinner complaining that the standard, thick-cut French style that was popularized in France in the 1700s and brought to the United States by Thomas Jefferson (when he returned from his stint as ambassador to that country) were too thick for his liking and sent back the order. Crum then cut and fried a thinner batch, but Vanderbilt once again complained, and sent these fries back to the kitchen. As was his manner, Crum decided to get even with the unknown guest, and prepared French fries that were too thin and crisp to skewer with a fork.
Supposedly, Vanderbilt loved the browned, paper-thin potatoes, and as fate would have it, other diners requested Crum's potato chips which he called potato crunches, and they soon appeared on the menu as Saratoga Chips, the house specialty; which led to Crum opening his own restaurant, on the lake in Saratoga Springs, called Crum's House, which was financed by four men including Vanderbilt. Crumb called his signature dish "potato crunches" and placed them in baskets on all the tables. He also marketed them for takeout in boxes as "Saratoga Chips" but, not realizing the importance of his creation, neither patented nor otherwise protected his invention.
Potato chip mass production is credited first to William Tappendon of Cleveland, OH, in 1895. He began making chips in his kitchen and delivered them to neighborhood grocery stores; he later created one of the first potato chip factories in a converted a barn in his backyard.
Other brands quickly followed: Leominster Potato Chip Co. (1908), Mike-sell's Potato Chips (1910), Dan Dee Pretzel and Potato Chip Company (1913), Num Num (1918). Blue Bell (1919). The Wise Delicatessen Company and Utz potato chips, both founded in 1921, are credited with being the driving force in expanding beyond their local geography and starting to market in areas where "chips" were unknown on the shelves in grocery stores.
But it was the invention of the mechanical potato peeler and continuous fryer — both in 1929 — that moved potato chips from a local small specialty item to the nation’s top-selling snack that it is today.
And in 1926, Laura Scudder started her potato chip company in California, and developed the wax paper bag to pack her chips to preserve their freshness and crispiness, making possible a wider distribution area.
At about the same time, Herman Lay, a traveling salesman in the South, helped bring potato chips from Atlanta to Tennessee. Lay sold his chips to Southern grocers out of the trunk of his car, building the first successfully marketed national brand of chips. He is also credited with the invention of the mechanical potato chip peeler.
Today, the trends driving chips include more flavors, less fat and calories, reduced carbs, organic, and — much like the trends in wine, beer and coffee — a return to the basics with a number of handmade, kettle-type chips, that are challenging the mainstream products both in taste and price.
Unlike "table potatoes" which come primarily from Maine and Idaho, the number one source of chipping potatoes is Pennsylvania. Although the state ranks only 13th in total potato output, 70 percent of the acres in potatoes are in chipping potatoes and these potatoes account for about 25 percent of all chipping potatoes, the highest in the U.S. Second in production is North Dakota, followed by Florida and then New York State. Many of the boutique brands of chips actually use different varieties of potatoes for different flavors and list them on their packages.
But there are favorites: In the Midwest shoppers prefer a light blander chip, Easterners would rather eat a strong-flavored, darker chip and our northern friends, the Northeast states and Canada favor salt and vinegar-flavored chips. Often, you find chips of all kinds that are ‘browned,’ and while most of us avoid them thinking they are burned or overcooked, the truth is that some potatoes naturally have higher sugar content and the browning is nothing more than carmelization.
So what should you serve for the Super Bowl?
Most agree that it is the assortment and variety of chips that make "chipping" fun and interesting enough to display as the mainstay of any Super Bowl party. And while it’s unlikely that any of our viewers will want this many different chips, we wanted to taste them all and make sure you have the ultimate chip report!
Frito Lay has two new product lines worth tasting: New Doritos and Tostitos Edge (now in test market) the first tasty low carb chips with 6 net carbs, 10 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber. The Smart Snack line (which includes Baked! Doritos Nacho Cheesier, Baked! Doritos Cooler Ranch, Baked! Ruffles, Baked! Tostitos, and Baked! Lays Potato Crisps) is one of my favorites as they contain no trans fats, no cholesterol, less than 150 calories, less than 240 mg. of sodium and less than 3.5 grams of fat per serving. The recipes were developed with the Cooper Aerobics Clinic in Dallas to insure they met the requirements for a heart healthy diet. In addition, Lays Classic, Rollitos Coller Ranch ("rolled-up" Doritos) and their latest flavor -- Doritos Guacamole (yes, they're green!) are good choices for the indulgent.
Grippos Potato Chips offers some of the best tasting and unusual flavors including Hot Dill Pickle, Sweet Bermuda Onion, Cheddar and Jalapeno as well as a great ‘gift box’ selection that is sure to make any Super Bowl party host happy.
Dakota Style Potato Chips call themselves "industrial strength" as they are among the thickest chips on the market and open kettle cooked in cottonseed oil to toughen them up! Dakota comes in flavors like Pizza Potato Chips, Salt & Vinegar, Honey Mustard, and Sour Cream & Cheddar along with gift boxes that include an assortment of chips and accompaniments.
Zapp's Potato Chips wins my award for the hippest packaging and most unusual and tasty flavors cooked in 100 percent cholesterol free peanut oil. Crawtator Potato Chips (imagine the taste of a Cajun boiled seafood feast), Mesquite BBQ, Hotter 'N Hot Jalapeno, Cajun Dill, Sour Cream and Creole Onion, Sweet Potato, and Sweet Cinnamon Sweet Potato.
Kettle Chips are small batches of natural gourmet potato chips cooked in expeller pressed safflower oil which is 80 percent mono-unsaturated and only made from Russet Burbanks which have a high natural sugar content, which both adds to the flavor and deepens the color of the chips. Flavors include: NY Cheddar with Herbs, Salsa with Mesquite, Sea Salt & Vinegar, Yogurt and Green Onion, Habanero Chili with Ginger. They also offer a 100 percent organic line of flavored tortilla chips: Sweet Brown Rice and Black Bean, Sesame Rye with Caraway, Sesame Blue Moons, Blue Corn, and 5 Grain Yellow Corn
Terra Chips changed the potato chip shelves with their full color photos, silver bags and Exotic Vegetable varieties (Taro, Sweet Potato, Yucca, Batata, Parsnip and Ruby Taro) now the line has expanded to include Terra Blues (made from naturally blue potatoes), Red Bliss (premium red potatoes, pure olive oil and light touch of herbs and sea salt), Yukon Gold (made with Yukon Gold potatoes and are 50 percent less fat than other leading brands) Potpourri (combination of Sweet Potato, Yukon Gold, Terra Blue and New Huckleberry Red or Red Thumb potatoes) and Terra Taro Chips (distinguished by its purplish-brown lines and nutty flavor).
Bistro Chips are waffle shaped with 30 percent less fat, no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives and have a six-month shelf life. Also called "Pommes Gaufrettes" by the French, these chips are cooked in expeller pressed oil and available in four flavors: Crème Fraiche & Green Onion, Blue Cheese, Au Gratin and Sea Salt. This brand only uses non-GMO Russet potatoes from the Columbia River basin.
What you might not realize, is that it takes one pound of potatoes to make about 150 average size chips.
But whichever chips you choose, be sure to read that nutritional facts panel. Most chips are still high in fat, calories and sodium. Sure it’s the Super Bowl, but that doesn’t mean you can eat the whole bag!
Phil Lempert, the Supermarket Guru®, analyzes the food marketing industry to keep consumers up-to-date about cutting-edge marketing trends. He is a regular "Today" show contributor, founder and editor of supermarketguru.com and host of Shopping Smart on the WOR Radio Network. For more food and health information, you can check out Phil’s Web site at: or check out . You can also contact Phil by e-mail at: .