How Lay’s Got Its Chips To Taste Like Chicken And Waffles

Frito-Lay relied on crowdsourcing to come up with three new potential chip flavors. Frito-Lay North America CMO Ann Mukherjee takes us through the creative process behind the Do Us A Flavor campaign.

How Lay’s Got Its Chips To Taste Like Chicken And Waffles

This week Frito-Lay stocked stores nationwide with three new Lay’s potato chip flavors created by consumers, and come May, one of these crunchy creations will join the Lay’s lineup.


The three contenders: Cheesy Garlic Bread, Chicken & Waffles, and Sriracha (that’s a hot sauce used in Thai dishes in case you didn’t know).

The trio was culled from 3.8 million entries submitted via Frito-Lay’s “Do Us A Flavor” contest. Launched via Facebook, the contest invited consumers to submit their ideas for inventive new Lay’s flavors.

With the three finalists now out to market, the ultimate winner will be chosen by consumers, who until May 4 can vote each day for their favorite on the Lay’s Facebook page; through Twitter using the hashtags #SaveGarlicBread, #SaveChickenWaffles, or #SaveSriracha; and through texting “VOTE” to 24477 (CHIPS).

In addition to being able to brag about having been the mastermind of an awesome new chip flavor, the winner of the contest will be awarded either $1 million or one percent of their flavor’s 2013 net sales (whichever number is higher).

While the Do Us A Flavor initiative has already been deployed around the world from the United Kingdom to Australia, resulting in new flavors such Late Night Kebob and Cajun Squirrel (no kidding!), this marks the first time the contest has run in the United States. “It was the perfect time to do it,” says Frito-Lay North America senior vice president and chief marketing officer Ann Mukherjee. “It’s the 75th anniversary of Lay’s, and we’ve seen such success with this all over the globe.”

Mukherjee says she was actually stunned by the level of participation this time around, noting that the contests have garnered 8 million entries worldwide, with the latest effort in the U.S. alone bringing in nearly half of that total.


The enthusiastic response speaks to the desire on the part of the consumer for a higher level of brand engagement, according to Mukherjee, who says, “Consumers today have gone from just wanting to buy a brand–they want to buy into a brand.”

And we’ll see more brands giving consumers a larger role in the creation and development of the products that they love. “I think we’ve just hit the tip of the iceberg, honestly,” she predicts.

Frito-Lay has used crowdsourcing for everything from this Do Us A Flavor campaign to the most recent iteration of the Doritos Crash the Super Bowl effort, which has the best fan-made commercials airing during the big game. “Our responsibility as marketers is to figure out how to leverage our brands for people to allow them to express themselves,” Mukherjee says, pointing out, “Now, not every crowdsourcing idea works for every brand. Doritos is a brand that is about giving consumers a shot, giving them the ability to break the rules, and there is no better way to do that than to give them the stage of the Super Bowl. Lay’s is different. Lay’s is about participation. They want a voice in the brand, a voice in the flavor. So you need to understand what the brand stands for and then figure out the right crowdsourcing idea to leverage the brand’s identity. One size does not fit all.”

Brands also have to be willing to put in the work on the back end. Creating these opportunities for consumers requires a significant investment of time and resources. Take Do Us A Flavor: Frito-Lay had to cull through millions of entries, seeking, initially, the most creative flavor ideas. Then the brand had to see if these ideas could realistically come to fruition.

To that end, the Frito-Lay staff of chefs prepared the actual dishes upon which the flavors were based, and food scientists translated those food notes into a spice blend for the chips. The chips had to taste exactly like the corresponding dish, and once Frito-Lay’s internal flavor development team whittled the list down to the top 10, those flavors were assessed by an outside panel of judges, including chef Michael Symon and actress/producer Eva Longoria, also a best-selling cookbook author and owner of the Los Angeles eatery Beso. (Symon and Longoria also appear in “Red Carpet,” a commercial created by Energy BBDO to promote the Do Us A Flavor campaign.) The judges then selected the three finalists, and Frito-Lay has now brought those flavors to market for the public to test.

“Consumers are looking for layered flavors so that complexity of flavor notes is very important in the final design,” Mukherjee says, noting, “When you bite into a Lay’s Chicken & Waffles chip, you will actually taste the maple syrup.”


[Image: Flickr user Jennifer Yin]

About the author

Christine Champagne is a New York City-based journalist best known for covering creativity in television and film, interviewing the talent in front of the camera and behind-the-scenes. She has written for outlets including Emmy, Variety,, Redbook, Time Out New York and