How much do you know about that bag of Lay’s potato chips you just finished munching on? Well, behind every great product there’s a great story. Here are 12 things about Lay’s you probably didn’t know.
12. They’ve Been Around a Long Time
America’s favorite potato chip has been around for a long time–since 1932, to be exact. It was during the Great Depression that Herman W. Lay, then a delivery man for an Atlanta-based snack company, founded the Lay’s potato chip company. The once small business was originally based in Nashville, TN–but only for a short period of time. Its North American headquarters were eventually moved to Plano, TX.
FUN FACT: Frito-Lay also has operations in Canada, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia.
11. It Was Formed from Another Potato Chip Company
As we just stated, Herman Lay was once a delivery man for an Atlanta-based snack company. That company, called Barrett Food Products, sold potato chips. Barrett Food Products had potato chip factories in Atlanta and Memphis, and also in Nashville, where Lay worked and delivered chips to restaurants and grocery stores all over Kentucky and Tennessee. After seven years of delivering for Barrett, Lay raised $40,000 in a stock sale and purchased the business, moving it to Georgia and renaming it the H. W. Lay Distribution Co.
10. They Were First Sold Out of the Back of a Car
Lay first sold his potato chips out of the back of his Ford Model A car. He would drive around the southern portion of the United States selling them to grocers. During that time there was a gas shortage, but with the help of Ed and Bernice Johnson, who owned the Belmont Boulevard Esso gas station right across the street from Lay’s manufacturing facility and often let Lay pay for gas on credit, Lay was able to keep his potato chip trucks on the road.
9. The Business Was Almost Sold
As stated earlier, Lay’s was formed from a company Herman Lay had purchased. But, within two years, he’d though about selling the business himself. Not because business was bad. In fact, it was just the opposite. Business was going quite well, and Lay even began expanding into new markets. But, he was worried that the novelty would soon wear off. “I just felt it was too good to be true,” Lay said years later, according to the Nashville Post. “I couldn’t see how people could eat more snacks that they were already eating.” Thankfully, he decided to hang on to the business anyway, and ended up opening five more plants in the Southeast. The company went public in 1956. By then it was worth $11 million.
8. Lay’s Eventually Merged with Two Other Companies
In 1945, H.W. Lay & Company formed a partnership with competitor Frito Company. Lay’s sold Fritos in the Southeast while the Frito Company sold Lay’s in the Southwest. The partnership was so successful that the two companies decided to merge in 1961 to form Frito-Lay, Inc. Just a few years later in 1965, Frito-Lay, Inc. merged with Pepsi-Cola to form PepsiCo.
FUN FACT: C.E. Doolin, the owner of the Frito Company, also began his business by selling chips from the back of a car–a Ford Model T, to be exact. Doolin purchased the business from Gustavo Olguin, a Mexican cook “who had perfected a recipe for curly chips made by frying corn masa,” Mental Floss wrote in an article on its website.
7. There are Lots of Flavors
According to MSN, there are over 160 flavors of Lay’s potato chips. They vary by country and region and include flavors like Salt and Vinegar, New England Lobster Roll, Cajun Spice, Chili and Lemon, Chesapeake Bay Crab Spice, Deep Dish Pizza, Chile Con Queso, and Vegetable Soup.
-Classic salted chips were the only ones sold until Lay’s introduced Barbecue flavored chips in 1958. Shortly after, the company debuted Sour Cream and Onion chips.
-Every year the company holds a “Do Us A Flavor” contest allowing consumers to submit their ideas for great new flavors. The winner of the contest gets $1 million!
6. A Lot Goes Into Making Them
It takes four to five medium potatoes just to make one bag of Lay’s potato chips. And, according to Delish.com, one Frito-Lay plant in Georgia alone cooks about one million pounds of potatoes and makes over 175,000 boxes of chips daily!
The potatoes come from 120 different farms across 25 states, including Florida, Texas, North Carolina, Michigan, Wisconsin, North Dakota, Washington, Maine and California, with Michigan and Wisconsin being its largest growing areas. “We source these products locally, and we produce them locally and get them straight into the store in a matter of days,” Chris Quinn, senior vice president of sales at Frito-Lay, told ABC News.
5. Lay’s Was the First Snack Food to Do TV Commercials
The company became the first snack food to advertise its products on TV. The commercials began airing in 1944. The company’s first spokesperson was Bert Lahr. He appeared in a number of Lay’s commercials and advertisements in the 1960s in the company’s “Betcha can’t eat just one” campaign. Don’t know who Bert Lahr is? Sure you do. You may not know him from the Lay’s commercials but you’ve seen his work before. He played the Cowardly Lion in the Wizard of Oz.
4. It’s One of the World’s Most Popular Brands
It’s the fifth most popular brand in the world, to be exact. That’s according to a 2017 study published by Brand Footprint. The study analyzed data from 18,000 daily household goods in 43 countries across five continents, and Lay’s came in at number five.
Lay’s is also the leading potato chip brand in the United States. Statista reported that in 2017 Lay’s controlled 29.4 percent of the potato chip market in the United States, with their top products generating about $1.7 billion dollars in sales that year.
3. Frito-Lay Introduced Specially-Marked Bags You Could Write or Doodle On
Last year, Frito-Lay unveiled specially-marked Frito-Lay Variety Packs containing chip bags that had talk bubbles parents could write notes on to their kids. “The program, Snackable Notes, reinvigorates the classic lunch note and gives mom and dad a new and creative way to connect with their kids during the school day when they’re apart,” Frito-Lay said in a press release.
Consumers were asked to submit their favorite Snackable Notes to www.SnackableNotes.com for a chance to win a $1,000 weekly prize. The program was available from August 23 to September 9.
2. There Was a Shortage of Lay’s Potato Chips
A 33 percent pay cut for Frito-Lay drivers led to a shortage of Frito-Lay products in several New York stores last year when those drivers decided to quit. According to the New York Post, a source revealed that management took over some routes in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens, but there still weren’t enough trucks on the road to meet customer demand. Some store owners who hadn’t received Frito-Lay deliveries in weeks reached a point of desperation and began asking drivers in other neighborhoods to sell them spare chips.
1. Frito-Lay is Working Toward Making Healthier Chips
According to a 2017 article published by Food and Wine magazine, Frito-Lay began cutting sodium while boosting healthy ingredients like vegetables and whole grains. “I think we’re getting to that sweet spot of a great experience with a lower sodium intake,” especially with Lay’s Lightly Salted potato chips, Dr. Christine Cioffe, senior vice-president, Sustainability and Global Snacks R&D at PepsiCo, told Food and Wine. “We do know through previous experience as well as consumer insights that when you signal to a consumer ‘now reduced’ or ‘now lower’ there’s a feeling you have either changed the product proposition or in a sense you’re depriving the consumer of the best experience possible. I think the positioning you see with Lay’s Lightly Salted is there’s not a deprivation,” Cioffe added.
So, there you have it. Those of just some facts we betcha didn’t know about Lay’s potato chips. Thanks for reading!