If you’ve ever searched for snack food news or reviews online, or if you read our post earlier this year, you’ve probably encountered across Taquitos.net – perhaps the most proflic snack food website on the internet. Think Baseball Reference, but for snack foods.
The site has been around since 2000, and has reviewed over 6300 snacks, of which potato chips is just a subset. It’s a rabbit hole of flavors, brands, and snacks.
Jeremy Selwyn is the co-founder and Chief Snacks Officer at Taquitos.net. Potato Chip World recently spoke to Jeremy about the origins of the site, trends in the business, and his thoughts on what does and does not work with potato chip flavors.
Why do you manage the site? What keeps it going?
I do it because snacks are fun. Eating snacks is fun, and writing about snacks is fun. Sometimes I’m impressed by a great flavor, sometimes I’m revolted by a bad one, but I’m willing to try just about anything. I never know what crazy snack they’ll come up with next. Once I find all these weird snacks, it’s also fun to share them with friends and family.
How did you get to 6300 reviews? 6300 is a lot.
As of today, it’s 6333 snacks. I was collecting odd flavors of potato chips and other snacks for about 5 years before I started the website, and had accumulated about 100 kinds. When we put the collection online 14 years ago, I had no idea that it could ever possibly get to 1000 snacks. I just didn’t have any idea that 1000 snacks even existed, let alone 6000. But we just keep finding more, as the search area expands and the companies keep rolling out new products. Sometimes a discovery is made while shopping at the store down the street, sometimes while vacationing across the world. Many companies have been nice enough to send samples of their new products. Friends and family have helped out with the hunt for snacks. The flavors just keep getting crazier.
So how many bags of chips, roughly, do you think you’ve eaten since you’ve started the website?
Me, personally? Not enough? Too many? Many of the snacks we’ve reviewed are not chips. Taquitos.net also reviews pretzels, cheese puffs, popcorn, candy bars and a few other categories. But I’ve eaten somewhere in the thousands of different chips bags, which includes 1463 potato chips, plus tortilla chips, corn chips, rice chips, wheat chips and more.
What sources do you read to stay aware of news in the snack/chip world?
I go to some of the food trade shows and skim some of the snack industry trade publications, but mostly I keep up on snacks by following the news, talking to friends about their favorite snacks, and visiting chip aisles frequently. When there’s big news, it just comes to me. This week, there was an announcement from Lay’s of Cheddar Bacon Mac & Cheese Potato Chips and Cappuccino Potato Chips, which hit the news big-time. So everyone’s been asking, have you found those yet?
What have you used to promote and build awareness around the site?
Mostly it’s been the buzz around some of the weirder snacks we’ve reviewed. Think Cajun Squirrel or Chicken & Waffles. People follow our RSS, Twitter or Facebook feeds to keep up with the latest reviews. We’ve also gotten some nice press coverage over the years (Time, Newsweek, Business Week, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Food Network and CBS News, to name a few).
What trends have you noticed in snacks/chips over the last 5-10 years?
There’s been a lot of consolidation in the industry — some of the smaller and midsize snack companies have gone out of business or been bought by the bigger players. It’s still a regional industry, but much less so than years ago. Frito-Lay had been dominant nationally for a long time, but Utz, Snyders-Lance and Herr’s have all expanded beyond being just regional players. But even as many of the older companies have gone away or been bought out, there have been lots of start-ups, especially in gourmet and “healthy” snacks. All of that adds up to a lot more competition. And that’s a good thing for snackers, because every company needs to stand out, so many are innovating to try to get snackers’ attention. They’re busy cranking out new flavors, new shapes of chips, entirely new types of chips and (unfortunately, sometimes) new gimmicks. Just within potato chips, you’ve now got flat chips, kettle-cooked chips, narrow-rippled chips, wide-rippled chips, waffle-cut chips and even various combinations of those, such as rippled kettle-cooked chips.
Some flavors sound unappetizing but end up tasting really good (for me, it was steak and onion). Is there a flavor you thought would be terrible, but ended up being great (or decent)?
Some snacks definitely end up tasting better than anticipated. For example, the Paprika flavor from Walkers was excellent. It’s not a spice that I would have thought to put on a chip, and it’s not even on my Top 10 Favorite Spices list (seriously, I don’t have such a list) but when I tried the chips, the combination of potato and seasonings just worked.
Building off the last questions, there are also some chips that end up tasting terrible. You had Humpty Dumpty Sour Cream and Clam chips in Taquitos’ worst ever list. Why no love for Sour Cream and Clam?
For the Humpty Dumpty sour cream and clam chips, flavors that I like in some contexts don’t always work in a snack. I like clam chowder, which generally includes milk, clams and potato, so it’s not that different from what’s supposed to be in those chips, but it didn’t work so well in the chip. I can eat calamari, but squid-flavored chips often taste fishy in a bad way, and shredded squid (such as Mr. Squid) can be kind of awful. I like eating shrimp, but most Asian shrimp chips are bad. Many potato chips try to emulate a particular flavor, and some do it well, while others fail.
In evaluating any sort of food, it’s entirely a matter of personal taste — I share lots of snacks with lots of people, and people are all over the map in what they like and don’t. Sometimes it’s hard to see the patterns. I offered the Lay’s Cappuccino chips to a bunch of coffee drinkers, and many said they tasted just like a cappuccino, while a sizable minority thought the taste was dreadful. These are the same people who drink coffee every day.
So have you tried the “Do Us a Flavor” Flavors? What did you think?
What do you do when you’re not managing Taquitos.net?
I have to burn off all of those snack calories, so I’m frequently out running, cycling, kayaking and getting whatever other exercise I can.