Snack companies are always scrambling to figure out what the next hot flavor is, as the market demands ever-changing options, even though sour cream and onion perfection is just there. Makers of potato chips, pretzels, and puff pastries are experimenting with making things pickled or spicy, or putting spices on top of other flavors, or making snacks taste like other meals altogether, like pizza. But the latest trend isn’t a flavor at all. It’s a method that in many ways leads to lack of flavor, but for many is also exactly the goal. Get excited about buying burnt fries.
A few brands have made inroads into the overcooked food market, much to the delight of anyone explicitly scouring a bag of chips for the burnt bits at the bottom. Better Made may have started the trend with its “Rainbow” crisps, which it began mass-producing in 2005. The first crisps, he says, were much more like Rainbow crisps, but like potatoes with less sugar have become favored in the production of chips, the caramelized dark color has become rarer. “Better Made collected rejected black shavings and packaged them as ‘Rainbows’, but supply was very limited and we were unable to meet demand,” the company said. says in its product description. Eventually he worked with farmers to develop a potato that would create a darker chip.
Herrs, Utz and Cape Cod have all introduced (or re-released) “dark” russet pot chips in recent years, which Utz describes as having a “deep, robust flavor” that highlights the natural caramelization of the potato’s sugars. The approach is not limited to potato chips. Utz also made “extra dark” pretzels, just like Unique. “We let our classic sourdough specialty pretzels bake a little longer for all of our dark pretzel fans,” Utz explains in his product description. “Utz Dark Specials have a bolder baked taste and an extra, satisfying crunch.”
Cheez-It introduced a “Extra grilled“snack line” after years of fan requests. According to Allyson Borozan, Senior Director of Innovation at Cheez-It, the company heard from people who were always looking for the burnt bits in the box, so it created one where all were “cooked a little longer than our Cheez. -It’s usual”. It’s cracking,” though she didn’t say how much longer. It can’t be much, given that some reviews point to inconsistencies in the batch: some boxes, people say, end up toastier than others.
Marcia Mogelonsky, director of analysis at market research firm Mintel, says burnt flavors are on the rise, in the wake of “barbecue” and other smoky flavours. Additionally, kettle fries have been popular for years, positioned as a more “old fashioned” way of making fries, with a method that brings out the caramelized flavors and crunch. (Some argue that the crispiness of kettle chips takes over, negating any compromise in desirable burnt flavors – former Eater writer Jenny G. Zhang called them “too hard, too sharp, too attached to a brutality. of texture to provide a balanced taste experience.”)
Likewise, any “overcooked” fry is for those who appreciate a certain brutality, whether it’s the charring of a blackened wedge or the sacrifice of some flavor for a tough crisp. But what seems to boil down (or cook up) on the business side is that “cooks a little longer” is an easy way for any brand to create a new product. You can capture all the people scouring the bottom of their fries order for the burnt ends by essentially doing less.
This isn’t the first or last time brands will monetize what many people consider accidents (remember Chip failure?), and honestly, the extra crispiness and browning often enhances most mainstream snacks. Since Cheez-It also recently introduces limited edition flavors to its Extra Toasty line, “burnt” looks set to become just one more tool brands can use to always feel like they’re offering something new. I can’t wait for it to turn into undercooked fries, which is just a bunch of semi-raw potatoes in a bag.