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Creating the World’s Worst Kettle Chip: A How-To Guide

By mixing highfalutin flavors, such as "yogurt," "blue cheese," and "fresh ground pepper," Kettle Foods–known for its Kettle Brand® Potato Chips, the biggest all-natural potato chip brand in the U.S.–has made Doritos sound like dog food. Now, for the first time, they’re letting customers take control.

Create-a-Chip Challenge

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By mixing highfalutin flavors, such as “yogurt,” “blue cheese,” and “fresh ground pepper,” Kettle Foods–known for its Kettle Brand® Potato Chips, the biggest all-natural potato chip brand in the U.S.–has made Doritos sound like dog food. Now, for the first time, they’re letting customers take control.

You’ll need two things to dominate Kettle’s Create-a-Chip Contest. The first, a Create-a-Chip Kit, retails in select stores for $9.99 or online for $15.99, including shipping. It holds one idiot-proof instruction card, four bags of plain crisps, and eight different seasonings, including “lemon butter,” “sweet chili,” and “caramelized onion” (though you’re free to add items from your own pantry). The second, says brand director Julie Dunmeir, is a “chip artist” mentality. “In other words,” she explains, “we’re targeting foodie adults who want indulgent potato chips with a big crunch.”

Kettle isn’t the first food-maker to harvest flavors from its fanbase. Some of Ben & Jerry’s most popular pints, such as Chunky Monkey and Cherry Garcia, came from everyday ice-cream enthusiasts. Ditto Jelly Belly, who recently awarded $10,000 to Joel Tokarczyk of Matteson, Ill., for drumming up an açaí-berry bean.

Since the Kettle contest began in March, “chip artists” have submitted more than 10,000 original recipes. They’ve ranged from good (garlic + parmesan) to bad (cheddar + peanut butter) to downright quizzical (cream soda + salt). Per Kettle’s Web site, one submission, dubbed “Ginberbread Anchovy,” even tastes like “gingerbread man drowned after accident with trawler.” (Yum.)

Here at Fast Company, however, four foodie staffers wanted to one-up them all–for better or, let’s be honest, for worse. So we ripped open three chip kits, raided our kitchen, and spent 45 minutes spicing plain ol’ potato crisps. Then, after much deliberation–and at least two stomachaches–we picked the five least palatable combinations:

Chip Name: CHILI CHOMP
Seasoning: 2 parts caramelized onion, 1 part roasted tomato, 1 part sweet chili
Tastes Like: “Not sure, but I think it’s burning my tongue.”
Overall Rank: 5

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Chip Name: TARTAR TOSS
Seasoning: 1 part lemon butter, 2 parts scour cream & chive, 1 part vinegar
Tastes Like: “Fishsticks minus the fish, with a hint of aftershave.”
Overall Rank: 4

Chip Name: OLD COUNTRY BUFFET
Seasoning: 1 part roasted tomato, 1 part lemon butter, 1 part sweet chili, 1 part cheddar, 1 part caramelized onion, 1 part vinegar, 1 part sour cream & chive, 1 part pepper
Tastes Like: “Spicy powder.”
Overall Rank: 3

Chip Name: DAIRY GODMOTHER
Seasoning: 1 part lemon butter, 2 parts cheddar
Tastes Like: “It’s curdling in my mouth.”
Overall Rank: 2

Chip Name: BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS
Seasoning: 2 parts ground coffee, 1 part Splenda, 1 part non-dairy creamer
Tastes Like: “Chocolate-covered espresso beans…gone wrong.”
Overall rank: 1

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