From Doritos to Vlasic, pickle flavored chips are a sweet trend for salty snacks

The multi-billion dollar chip biz has not soured on these dills

Doritos has launched pickle-flavored chips this week that are only available at Dollar General and Circle K store for a limited time -- as the Pepsi-owned Frito Lays brand looks to capture its share of this wildly popular chip flavor in the multi-billion dollar chip industry.

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The unconventional flavor joins several other chip brands that have made pickled versions, including fellow Pepsi chipster Lay’s, Utz, Pringles (owned by crereal king Kellogg's) and Kettle (owned by Campbell's Soup). Even craft chip makers have taken notice of the dill pickle demand such as Herr’s, Uncle Ray’s and Lousiana's beloved Zapp’s.

TickerSecurityLastChangeChange %
CPBCAMPBELL SOUP CO.47.25+0.66+1.42%
KKELLOGG59.38+0.14+0.24%
PEPPEPSICO, INC.132.13-0.90-0.68%
CAGCONAGRA BRANDS INC36.53+1.03+2.90%

Pickle chips may be gaining popularity in the U.S. because the flavor may seem to be more “artisanal” in nature than standard salt and vinegar chips, according to a report from food news website Eater, which noted that growing consumer trends show that Americans are responding positively to fancier or unique snacks.

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For salt and vinegar chips, the star ingredient maltodextrin – a porous starch powder – absorbs the vinegar flavoring to create the cult favorite, according to the food critic-founded blog Serious Eats. This same method or at least a similar concept could be applied to the rising success of pickle-flavored chips, Eater theorized.

A man shown eating chips. (iStock)

Add in the fact that 49.13 million bags of salt and vinegar chips sold in the U.S. throughout 2019, according to Simmons National Consumer Survey, and there appears to be a healthy demand for the tangy flavor. Moreover, 35.51 million chip bags sold in that year were “other flavors,” which may signal openness to explore unconventional flavors like pickles.

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Pickle company Vlasic -- owned by ConAgra Foods -- has also jumped on the trend and has developed a line of pickle chips -- made from real pickles.  "Pickles themselves are a great snack, essentially no calories or carbs," said Tom McGough, Conagra co-chief operating officer, during an April 2019 Investor Day event.. "Pickles has always been a flavor that people have loved in snacks… Whether it’s in potato chips or even in our Bigs Vlasic Dill Sunflower Seeds.”

He also revealed that the pantry and refrigerated pickle category is valued at $1.1 billion and has grown more than six percent in the past year.

Similarly, competing pickle company McClure’s already has a line of pickle-flavored crinkle cut chips, including Spicy Pickle and Garlic and Dill Pickle.

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The overall chip market size is estimated to be around $7.5 billion, according to market research firm Potatoes USA.