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America says no to cappuccino-flavoured potato chips, greenlights wasabi ginger

10/20/2014 10:15 EDT | Updated 12/20/2014 05:59 EST
NEW YORK, N.Y. - America has rejected the idea of cappuccino-flavoured Lay's potato chips.

Frito-Lay says Wasabi Ginger won its contest that gives people a chance to create a new flavour, beating out the coffee-flavoured chips and the two other finalists — Mango Salsa and Cheddar Bacon Mac & Cheese. Parent company PepsiCo Inc. says about 1 million total votes were cast online for the Do Us A Flavor promotion, a sales driver it has launched in more than a dozen countries.

In the U.S., bags of the four finalist flavours hit shelves in late July and people were able to vote on Facebook and Twitter for their favourites through this past weekend. It was the second year for the U.S. contest, which is designed to send customers to stores in search of the flavours. Last year's winner, Cheesy Garlic Bread, is still on shelves.

The winner, Meneko Spigner McBeth, was informed at a dinner for finalists Monday night in New York City. McBeth, a registered nurse from Deptford, New Jersey, will get $1 million or a set percentage of a year in sales, whichever figure is larger.

Ram Krishnan, Frito-Lay's chief marketing officer, said this year's winner is evidence Americans want more ethnic flavours, even though the top four Lay's flavours remain Original, Barbecue, Cheddar & Sour Cream and Sour Cream & Onion. He said he couldn't have imagined Lay's selling a Wasabi Ginger flavour when he joined the company eight years ago.

"We're kind of getting into a new flavour territory," Krishnan said. "When I went to school, Mexican food was exotic."

As for the cappuccino flavour — which was described as "NASTY" and "gross" in some comments on Lay's Facebook page — Krishnan defended its performance, although he wouldn't say how many votes it got.

"The fact that it made it out of our selection process to make it to the final four is no small feat," he said.

The contest began in the United Kingdom, where Frito-Lay sells chips under the Walkers brand. Since then, it was launched in 14 countries before coming to the U.S. last year. Winning flavours in other countries include Pizza in Saudi Arabia, Shrimp in Egypt, Sunday Roast in New Zealand, Pickled Cucumber in Serbia and Aline's Caesar Salad in Australia.

Given its success, Krishnan said the company is looking to launch the contest in other countries as well.

Krishnan wouldn't specify how much of a sales lift the contest provides. But in the latest quarter that ended Sept. 6, PepsiCo, based in Purchase, New York, said revenue for its Frito-Lay North America division rose 3 per cent, reflecting a 2 per cent gain in volume and 1 per cent gain from higher prices.

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Follow Candice Choi at http://www.twitter.com/candicechoi

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