Potato chips are a classic snack that absolutely no one can resist. Crunchy and salty, chips hit all the perfect notes when you’re looking for something to munch on. Chips are also a staple side to pair with handheld foods like burgers, wraps, and sandwiches. While you can never go wrong with the good old classic potato variety, we can see that many innovative and unique flavors are hitting shelves across the country, introducing consumers to a whole new world of inspired flavors.

Looking at the chip trends this past year, we observe that new chip and snack flavors are coming from innovative places. This means borrowing tastes from foods that are already sure-fire hits, as well as creating something totally new for consumers to experience. Let’s take a look at some of the latest chip creations taking stores by storm and where some of these taste inspirations are coming from. 


Global Flavors in Just One Bite

Chips are a fun and tasty way to try out new flavors that consumers might not have had the chance to taste otherwise. The familiar snack allows food producers to test new flavor combinations because consumers are already well-acquainted with the snack. Since the majority of people around the world already know and love chips, it might not seem so strange or intimidating to test out exotic new flavors.

Flavor innovation when it comes to chips and other snacks is coming from around the world. Global flavors allow consumers to have an international adventure without ever leaving their kitchen. Chip producers are having fun using flavors that are beloved in one culture and bringing them to another in one crunchy bite.

For example, street corn, or elotes, is a wildly popular snack you can find all over Mexico. This is a grilled ear of corn slathered in mayo, sprinkled with chili and cotija cheese, and topped off with a squirt of lime juice. There are spicy, sweet, and savory notes in each bite, which translates really well when creating a new potato chip flavor. Cheetos latched onto this idea to create Mexican Street Corn Crunchy Cheetos, a snack that has taken off really well with shoppers. Other brands are doing the same with other international street foods and flavors.

Borrowing flavors like this and putting them into small bites in the form of familiar snacks is a great idea. Consumers will be more intrigued to try them if brands they're already familiar with put these new flavor profiles out there. Surveys show that shoppers are interested in trying chips inspired by international dishes like tom yum, peri peri, and bulgogi, even though they have never tried them before. They’re looking to experience something new and foreign in a low-risk way.


Turning Up the Heat

One flavor profile that’s getting a lot of attention right now is spicy notes. The snack industry has reported a rising demand among shoppers for snacks and chips that turn up the heat. To meet this demand, many chip manufacturers are partnering with hot sauce brands to create spicy snacks. This satisfies the consumers' preferences for familiar tastes and boosts the brand recognition of both parties. 

One popular popcorn brand has successfully partnered with a number of other well-known food brands in the past, and it’s now creating a popcorn variety with a leading hot sauce company. Pairing an already popular snack with a trending flavor is a smart move as it entices consumers looking for a mix of the familiar and innovative.

Other famous brands are also forging partnerships with hot sauce brands and celebrity chefs to create spicy snacks with some unexpected flavors mixed in. Studies show that more than 40% of American consumers have already tried (and liked) sweet-spicy combinations like chili and lime, and many others are interested in trying more of these specific flavor profiles. Other trending sweet-spicy combinations include:

  • Chili-mango

  • Thai chili

  • Hatch chili

  • Pineapple jalapeño


Flavors Inspired by Beloved Dishes and Menu Favorites

Another interesting trend that we are seeing is that several manufacturers are turning to famous dishes for new flavors to integrate into chips and snacks. Some brands are looking to tasty sandwiches for inspiration since many mix spicy, sweet, and salty flavors together into one bite. Sandwiches like the Cuban, grilled cheese, and BLT definitely hit savory and sweet notes because of their toppings. Chip companies are recreating these flavors with chips that have a satisfying, crunchy texture.

Shoppers also like to try out flavored chips after some of their favorite fast foods. Looking at shelves, you’ll find taco, pizza, and buffalo wing chips and snacks from different brands. Perhaps these flavors are so enticing because you can get a small taste of foods you love in just a handful of chips rather than indulging in a few slices of pizza or a basket of chicken wings. Manufacturers rely on the fact that consumers already love these foods that have proven to be popular with the masses time and time again.

Not to forget the holidays, chip makers are getting into the spirit by recreating savory flavors based on seasonal dishes. Are you craving roast turkey or pigs in a blanket? How about Christmas pudding? These are just a couple of chip flavors hitting shelves this holiday season to spread a little festive cheer.


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Another Potato Favorite

While not exactly chips, one trend that’s been quite noticeable is the variety of fries now available on the market, and not all of them are potato-based. Loaded fries are more popular than ever, with classic ingredients like bacon, cheese, or jalapeños stacked on top. This combination is a classic, but we are seeing some new varieties, like fries with elevated ingredients such as blue cheese, truffle oil, or even caviar.

Dine-in restaurants are offering fries on the menu that actually look like delicious meals. Red Robin introduced the BBQ Burnt Ends Loaded Fries in October, which feature smoked burnt ends on top of thick fries drizzled with ranch and barbecue sauce. Ledo Pizza debuted Taco Fries, sprinkled with taco seasoning and then loaded with ground beef and melted cheese. Bonefish Grill is topping their loaded fries with lump crab meat and Bang Bang Shrimp sauce.

As you can see, restaurants are getting quite creative when dressing up their baskets of fries. They experiment with Japanese, Korean, and Chinese flavors with French fries in independent or fine dining settings. These are just a few examples, but many other eateries are also getting creative with their toppings and are looking to international flavors for inspiration, just like chip manufacturers. 


Related: Savory Cravings: Gen Z Edition


A World of Flavors to Discover

Potato chips are no different from many other foods this year in that global flavors seem to be emerging on supermarket shelves everywhere. Exotic flavors like nori, habanero, and chili are quickly becoming fan favorites. Spicy flavors also dominate the emerging flavors scene, while classics, like potato, barbecue, and sour cream, are holding strong in the top positions. 

Chips are a classic snack because they are so versatile. Whether shoppers want just a handful of a classic flavor they love or want to try something new, there’s definitely a chip flavor out there for just about any palate. While they might not be the most health-conscious snacks, potato chips are a comfort food that everyone craves from time to time, so getting inventive with them is a wise move for manufacturers. Experimenting with flavors encourages consumers to break out of their comfort zones and try something new while still being able to enjoy a snack that they already know and love.


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