The Back of the Potato Chip Bag: an Unscientific Register

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October 29, 2017 at 9:10 pm Leave your thoughts

Gobs of cash go into developing dapper chip bag fronts. And rightfully so: In the hyper-competitive snack food aisles, the front of the bag has to make a perfect visual pitch to earn the sale.

If the front is Married…With Children, the back is Flying Blind or Herman’s Head: rarely viewed, occasionally amusing, mostly forgettable, yet without it something seems off.

For those that choose the path of creativity, the blank canvas of a bag back gives manufacturers a chance to build their brand or cross-promote products. For others, it’s a complete afterthought.

The following list covers everything you should encounter on the back of a chip bag. It’s based on the perusal of hundreds of bags we’ve read. The list is broken into four tiers, from most common to least common. If we missed anything, please leave your findings in the comments.

Tier 1: the mandatory elements

The seam

Unless boxed or canned, this is a must-have. It’s the glue that holds the foily film together. Seams are on the back because would look stupid on the front. Imagine a clean vertical line running across the front of a fecund potato field graphic. And you can thank this guy for their impermeability.

Nutrition Facts

Every US product needs it. Most foreign products have it as well. Chip bags are no exception. They look similar as they do to any other product, due to these guidelines.

I’m surprised none of the natural chip makers have flipped the script and put this on the front.

The Universal Product Code

Also known as the UPC code, every packaged product in a grocery store has them, including chips. A 12-digit number that makes commerce flow like the Nile. Each of the bars represents a different number. This article gives a good explanation.

An address

I don’t know that this is mandatory but I’ve never encountered a bag that didn’t have an address. It’s not the location of the manufacturing; instead, it’s typically the headquarters for the brand. The address helps you remember that the food was made in an actual facility, and not passed via ones and zeroes from some tech hotshot’s loft.

Reg Penna Dept Agr (Pennsylvania Only)

Because it’s what you do in Pennsylvania.

Tier 2: the Regulars

A few sentences about the flavor

This is the elevator pitch. Where copywriters earn their money. Can you come up with three compelling sentences about plain potato chips? Something like this? In any case, there’s typically some sizzling verbiage about the “tastes of the islands” or “hand peeled” something that’s designed to convince you that these chips are better than the other similar varieties.

Customer Support

If there’s enough of a gap between the sentences about the flavor and the eating experience, chip bags give you contact information to air your grievances.

Anecdotally, our website receives a lot of this for the brands that have a limited web presence. So I have a sense for the kinds of inquiries these lines get. The feedback of “too salty”, “not salty enough”, “too flavorful”, or “not flavorful enough” cover 80 percent of the chances. The other 20 percent typically deal with “where can I buy these in my area” questions.

I applaud the brands that put this on their bags.

Social Media

This often overlaps as a customer support channel, but brands have added plugs for their Facebook or Twitter presences. Of all the back of the bag components, this is the newest.

By the way – if you were ever looking for almost every chip brand on Twitter, look at who i follow.

Cross Promotion

The most common form of cross promotion on the back of a chip bag is the “try these other flavors” list. Chip brands that offer anywhere from 2 to 10 varieties will list out what you’re missing by committing to whatever you just bought.

Brands with a portfolio of snacks will often plug their cheese puffs, popcorn or pretzels. The really big brands may even tie in with other non-snack products like sodas or animated movies. These brands understand every inch of bag real estate can be a chance to sell.

Nothing

Bags without anything show such certainty, and I love it. They see no need to stateĀ  who they are, where they are, and what they stand for. The front bag must be so compelling that they only reserve the back for government obligations. That is confidence.

Tier 3: Special Guest Stars

The brand origin story

mikesellBag

This is a spin on the flavor, but with a much more homespun, folksy tone. Invoking a date from decades ago implies the chip must be good, since they’ve been around for so long. Kind of like how all old people are good people.

The guarantee

Or, “if you’ll go through the trouble to call us to complain, we’ll send you a coupon for a new bag.” Personally I like the guarantee too. If a company pumps up their flavors and origin story, only for the chip to be hot garbage, the least they can do is send a coupon for the trouble.

Personally I’ve never called in a guarantee, but if you have let me know.

Gratitude from the founders

This one kind of explains itself. The CEO, President, or (where applicable) someone whose last name equals the brand’s, gives a few sentences of thanks. This will sometimes be paired with the guarantee.

The mascot

Because what’s a good food product without a lovable, inanimate mascot?

Golden Flake is my favorite example.

Not worthy of top billing, the Golden Flake clown is most commonly cordoned off to the back of the bag, picking up garbage. Poor clean clown.

 

 

 

 

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