Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Lay's USA Simply Lay's Sea Salted Thick Cut Potato Chips

Well well... Here is a US bag I've never seen nor heard of. I was driving from Phoenix, AZ to LA after enjoying the Superbowl weekend festivities (my Pats won, eeeee), when I pulled into a random truck stop for gas. The place was massive and on my way down the chip aisle I discovered these. I figured I had to pick them up. They're called Simply Lay's and they make a very clear distinction that they are free of artificial flavors and preservatives, as well as being thick-cut. The ingredients list is wonderfully short; just Potatoes, Expeller Pressed Sunflower Oil, and Sea Salt. I ripped this bag open mid-drive and taste tested them. And sadly, they were very very very unimpressive. The Salt Level was flat out scary. It was like licking a salt brick. I figure this is done to compensate for the cheap quality of flavor in the potatoes Lay's uses (literally the chip alone was flavorless), and also to compensate for the lack of crazy oil mixes they use that usually impart flavor in their chips (like Corn and Canola). The chips were beautiful and had a nice yellow color with very rare burnt bits. I included a chip in this photo for you to see how large the chips were on average. Most were bigger than the Lay's logo (this is the large $3.49 bag to give you a size comparison)... and VERY few were broken, which was cool. But, these chips had something just straight-weird going on with the texture. The closest thing I can compare it to is staleness. The chips are thick cut, so they have a hard crunch, but then the center is kind of soft, and somehow the combo makes them taste very stale... and I don't know if it was legitimate staleness due to the lack of preservatives or just because these chips are wack... it was very weird and off-putting. The weirdest thing though was, the freshness of the sunflower oil. See, with such a flavorless chip, after I ate a few chips and drove, I started to get that taste you have after you eat shelled sunflower seeds. The nutty but light flavor of Sunflower. Since I was driving, not reading the bag, I didn't connect the dots, and I thought it was suspicious (hmm, why do I feel like I just ate Sunflower seeds? Weird) but, reading that the oil comes untarnished from an expeller press, it makes perfect sense that the oil would retain it's maximum flavor and infuse that into these chips. So, I have to give them a bit of kudos for the quality of the cooking oil. But, sadly that's where it ends.

I'd love to see them use a more flavorful, and high quality, potato for these bags. And generally, you find that kind of flavor in smaller potatoes than those Goliath slices I was pulling out of the bag. I'd also like that flavor to speak for itself, so a less heavy handed approach to the salt would have been welcomed. If both of those elements had been on point, I could forgive the weird texture.

At the moment, this is not the healthy alternative to Lay's that I would be looking for.
And in regards to that, I'm sure Lay's know it's not up to snuff, because a little internet digging told me that this bag started it's life as "Natural Lay's" then "Simply Natural Lay's". Since then, the term "Natural" has received quite some criticism, so the collection was re-branded as "Simply Lay's" in January of last year... which is a much more suitable name for what is in this bag.

All in all, I like what they were attempting to do with this product, I'd just love to see it perfected.

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