The judges at Lay's Canada received 1.25 million submissions (up from 600,000 in last year's inaugural contest) and are now asking Canadians to vote on their favourite.
Toronto-based comedian James Cunningham, spokesman for the company's Do Us a Flavour campaign and host of the TV program "Eat St.," was struck by the adventurous suggestions.
"That's what happens with me and food trucks all the time is you expect something will taste one way and then you bite into it or you eat it and it's completely not what I thought it was going to be. That's ... the novelty of the food trucks, I think, it's brought this gourmet experience to the masses, like people who wouldn't try different things before now are able to try things more cheaply and have much more of a flavour experience."
He added that the judges are looking for the story behind the flavour along with originality and creativity.
The four Canadian finalists are:
— Bacon Poutine on Lay's Original by Guillaume Lorrain of Trois-Rivières, Que.
— Cinnamon Bun on Lay's Original by Gloria Melanson of London, Ont.
— Jalapeno Mac N' Cheese on Lay's Wavy by Randall Litman of Calgary.
— Tzatziki on Lay's Kettle Cooked by Denise Vella of Cambridge, Ont.
The winner gets $50,000 plus one per cent of future sales. During voting, their photo will appear on billboards in their hometown. Voters can "meet" them in videos posted online.
Maple Moose, created by Tyler LeFrense of Isle Aux Morts, N.L., was the 2013 winner.
The contest has been held in other countries and has resulted in a wide spectrum of chip flavour ideas including Caesar Salad (Australia), Chili & Chocolate (U.K.), Mastana Mango (India), Walkie Talkie Chicken (South Africa) and Cheesy Garlic Bread (U.S.).
Cunningham, 41, thinks comfort food and texture are also playing a role in Canadians' changing palates.
"People are really, really gravitating toward things that they love, flavours that they relate to, flavours that they love," he says, citing Melanson's Cinnamon Bun flavour, which reminded her of the waft of her grandmother's warm gooey creations, or Vella's Tzatziki suggestion, which came about after she fell in love with Greek food during travels in Europe.
Lorrain's Bacon Poutine idea stemmed from memories of his father treating him to a childhood dinner featuring that food. Litman's Jalapeno Mac N' Cheese was inspired by what happens during summer barbecues when everything ends up on one plate and chips brush up against macaroni salad.
Both the Bacon Poutine and Jalapeno Mac N' Cheese chips remind Cunningham of dishes he's had on food trucks.
"In street food trucks the texture now is very, very important. Like, for example, when you're eating a fish taco or when you're having, like I had down in the U.S., one of my favourite trucks was a truck that had hotdogs served in naan bread. So you know when you bite into a hotdog and you have this expectation of what it tastes like by the feel of it, you know what I'm saying, you have it in something that's different it completely changes the flavour experience."
Voting runs from Aug. 12 to Oct. 15. Canadians can vote once per day on the website, Twitter, Instagram or by text. Visit Lays.ca/Flavour for details and contest rules.
The fifth season of Food Network Canada's "Eat St." debuts Sept. 6 at 7 p.m. ET.
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