CLOSE
Original image
iStock

The Psychological Trick Behind Potato Chip Bags

Original image
iStock

Whether you prefer the neon orange dust of Cheetos, try to keep things relatively healthy with pretzels, or firmly believe in the impossibility of eating just one Lay’s potato chip, your snack choices all have one thing in common: their packaging.

With the exception of Pringles, almost all chips come in a crinkly polymer bag. Your chief complaint about those bags may be how they’re only filled about halfway, but that’s on purpose—the bags are filled with nitrogen to create an air cushion that helps protect the delicate snacks within.

Another part of the bag design that’s completely intentional: the noise it makes. Research has shown that the crinkly, crunchy noise produced by the polymer increases the user’s sensory experience, leading snackers to feel that the chips are crisper, crunchier, and fresher than those not served in the bag.

But there is a tipping point to the effect, as Frito Lay inadvertently discovered. In 2010, the company introduced a new, compostable bag for their Sun Chips brand. Consumers quickly picked up on the fact that the bag, made of a corn-based polylactic acid, was louder than the old version—a lot louder. The bag tested at 95 decibels, which is about as loud as a motorcycle. The ear-piercing package even inspired a Facebook community called “SORRY BUT I CAN’T HEAR YOU OVER THIS SUN CHIPS BAG,” liked by more than 40,000 people. Due to consumer response, the bag was changed again in 2011.

Original image
iStock
arrow
Food
The Surprising Reason Why Wendy's Serves Fast Food's Only Baked Potato
Original image
iStock

For an industry that prides itself on convenience and indulgence, a fiber-rich pseudo-vegetable that’s hard to eat on the go and isn’t deep-fried seems like a curious addition to a fast food menu. Yet Wendy’s has been selling baked potatoes for nearly three decades—11-and-a-half ounces of pure, unpeeled spud, drowned in your choice of toppings.

According to Thrillist writer Wil Fulton, who spoke with Wendy’s vice president of culinary innovation Lori Estrada, the chain first got turned on to the foil-wrapped food in the 1980s, when nutrition experts were (erroneously) touting low-fat diets for weight loss. Eager to embrace the trend, Wendy's viewed a plain potato as a popular alternative to sliced, oil-slicked fries.

The hysteria over fat may have disappeared, but the collective consumer appetite for the potato did not. Estrada says she believes many of them consider the 270-to-480 calorie (depending on toppings) carb dump a meal unto itself, and that some enjoy piling on cheese, bacon, and other burger trimmings for a tasty and inexpensive dinner.

So why don’t you see baked potatoes at other franchises? Estrada speculates that the logistical issues are a turnoff. The potatoes are cooked from a raw state in convection ovens, which could necessitate new equipment and ample prep time. With fries still the king of sides, franchisees may not think it’s worth the hassle.

Wendy’s is undoubtedly happy to have the market to themselves: The chain sells 1 million tubers a week.

[h/t Thrillist]

Original image
LaCroix
arrow
Food
The Secret Ingredient That Makes LaCroix Water So Irresistible
Original image
LaCroix

The distinctive Technicolor cans of LaCroix sparkling water are an increasingly popular sight in stores and on kitchen tables around the country. (If you're old enough to remember the Snapple phenomenon of the 1990s, this is like that—just bubbly.) But as The Wall Street Journal recently pointed out, few of the beverage's loyal fans have any idea what it is they're drinking.

LaCroix comes in a variety of flavors, from tangerine to coconut. The can label, however, is cryptic, listing "natural flavors" as part of the ingredients. Their website discloses only that "natural essence oils" are involved, which sounds like LaCroix should be applied to your hair and then rinsed off.

A look at the nutritional information for LaCroix water
LaCroix

As it turns out, that's not too far off. According to The Wall Street Journal, these "essences" are naturally produced chemicals that are manufactured by heating up fruit or vegetable remnants until they make a vapor, then condensing them into a clear concentrate. They're used in a variety of consumer products, from shampoos to ice pops.

LaCroix was unwilling to confirm the Journal's claim, protecting their manufacturing process in a manner similar to Coca-Cola's famously secretive treatment of their recipe. They do state that no sugars are added, but that may not be enough to protect your teeth: Carbonated water and citric acids can combine to create a lower pH, which has a detrimental effect on tooth enamel. Like most everything that tastes good, these flavored waters are best enjoyed in moderation.

[h/t The Wall Street Journal]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios