Snack At A Glance (SNAAG)
Product Name: Pringles Select Szechuan Barbecue
Genre: Rice/Rice Starch and Potato flour hybrid snack chip
Year of Introduction: Late 2006/Early 2007
Nutritional Data: 140 Calories per ounce (28 chips, or one serving) 8 grams of fat per ounce, 220mg of sodium per serving, Zero trans-fats and 16 grams of carbohydrate per serving.
Primary Seasonings: Soy Sauce Powder, MSG, Garlic Powder, Paprika
Pringles definitely ranks very high on my list of favorite junk food snacks. I can’t exactly quantify why, but some of this has to do with the fact that the brand was introduced during my early youth, and I remember other kids getting care packages of them in summer camp, and having to barter various kinds of candy for samples of them. The cardboard tube packaging is distinctive (and it makes a great Wi-Fi antenna) and even the eating ritual is fun — you don’t eat them one at a time, you shove a piled stack of them into your mouth. And when you get to the bottom of the tube, you empty the whole can of leftover broken shards into your maw. Its a great interactive potato chip, if not for its inherent junkyness. It’s flavors were basic — plain, barbecue, sour cream and onion, pizza, ranch, vinegar & salt, and cheese. And we liked them that way. The curved shape also lended itself well to simple sour cream based dips.
Now it seems that the venerable snack chip’s corporate masters, Procter & Gamble, are looking to expand into new market segments with the new “Select” line of snack chips. Some companies are able to do a particularly good job when they do demographic analysis and re-branding, like Doritos — but this is only when they don’t completely sacrifice the essence of their core brand and make sensible changes. In the case of Pringles Select, the new chip has virtually no resemblance to the fun, interactive snack that bears its family name.
For starters, the new packaging appears to be going after the Terra Chip or the gourmet supermarket chip segment, such as those made by Whole Foods. Gone is the recognizable Pringles can — its been replaced by a glossy bag, made of that plastic and metal-lined material that helps retain chip freshness. The chips themselves are smaller, almost too small for dipping, and the distinctive interactive nature of the original Pringles chip is lost. The particular flavor of Pringles Select I sampled, the Szechuan Spicy Barbecue, had an overwhelming flavor of MSG, then garlic, and then some soy sauce and then paprika — it didn’t quite resonate as Szechuan, as I perceived no actual Szechuan peppercorn or hot chile oil spicing. It was overwhelmingly salty — Rachel proclaimed her dislike of the chips from the very beginning, and I was done with them after a few samples.
I did like, however, the synthesis between the rice flour and potato starch, as the texture and crispness of the chips themselves were very good. Perhaps, if Pringles makes them in the original size and shape, in the original container, and works on the spicing formulation a bit more, they might have something — but I’m not buying these again.