My State Has A Favorite Snack – And Boy Am I Embarassed

I was going to wade into the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict, but then three things happened. First the Ahmaud Arbery verdict hit the news, which seemed something that was relevant to my take on the topic. Then I followed a link to a blog that featured the results of some research that identified the most popular junk food in each of the fifty states of the U.S. The third thing is that it is a holiday weekend, and I have decided (in my most imperious version of myself) that we shall all lighten up this weekend and stop harping on things. Except my state’s choice in junk food. In this case, some harping is required.

It appears that last summer, some folks dove into something called Google Trends (I didn’t know that Google was in charge of trends now, but should have suspected as much) and they claim to have discovered the most popular junk food in each state. The source I read* did not go into detail about how the data was collected, sorted, sifted or otherwise sliced and diced, but the result was horrifying: My state of Indiana has a favorite junk food snack – and it is Pringles.

Yes, Pringles, the Potato-ish chips that are formed from some kind of food-grade starch slurry and molded into saddle-shaped “chips” that stack upon each other in a tall cylindrical can, much as those cheap white chairs of ABS plastic that are found at Wal Marts everywhere in the spring. And, truthfully, I think they likely taste about the same. OK, the Pringles are saltier.

I remember when Pringles were first introduced – they were a novelty that was more about the packaging and the presentation than the actual taste. They have certainly not shoved traditional potato chips from their shelf space, but have stubbornly hung on to a niche market for those who simply must have their potato chips from a can. Who knows, perhaps Indiana is one place that kept the fat, bald men in some board room from sighing and saying “I guess we are agreed, we have to stop Pringles production because we just don’t sell enough of them.” In which case I say “A pox on my house.”

I guess I don’t actually hate Pringles – Pringles don’t have enough presence or importance in my life to generate hate, or any other emotion of even moderate strength. Did my single summer working in a potato chip factory as a youth inoculate me against lowered standards for what constitutes an acceptable potato chip? That is probably true – if making your potato chips requires more than potatoes, frying oil and salt, you are making them wrong.

But it is hard to understand the depth of Indiana’s junk food fail without looking at some other states. Some like traditional chips of various kinds, like Ruffles (Alabama), Lays (Georgia & West Virginia), Salt & Vinegar chips (South Carolina) and kettle chips (Oregon). Then then there are the states that hit other shelves in the same aisle: Cheez-Its (Arizona and Washington), Cheetos (California), Doritos (Arkansas), Funyuns (Texas), Skinny Pop (Illinois) and Fritos (Delaware, Kentucky and Nebraska).

Snack cakes have a few fans, such as Cosmic Brownies (Colorado), Mini Donuts (Florida), Twinkies (Mississippi) and muffins (Vermont). Then there are the cookie states: Nutter Butter (Kansas), Grandma’s Cookies (Missouri), Rice Krispy Treats (Montana), Chips Ahoy (New York). And we must not forget Oreos (Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, New Jersey and Virginia).

The candy aisle is popular in many places. There are some outliers who avoid chocolate, such as Sour Patch Kids (Michigan, Oklahoma), or Starburst (North Carolina, Ohio). But most states that fancy candy go for the good stuff: Pay Day (Louisiana), Crunch Bar (Massachusetts), Snickers (Minnesota), Kit Kat (Nevada), Almond Joy (New Hampshire), Milky Way (South Dakota); Baby Ruth (Tennessee), Three Musketeers (Utah) and Twix (Wisconsin). And it will surprise nobody that Hershey is tops in Pennsylvania.

A few places prefer their junk food less junky: Cliff/Granola bars (Idaho, Alaska), Sunflower seeds (North Dakota, Wyoming) and even beef jerkey (New Mexico). And most mystifying of all are the two States in the northeast (Maine and Rhode Island) that favor Ritz Crackers. Are things really that grim in those places? “My girlfriend just dumped me, and I really need a box of Ritz crackers” said nobody, ever.

I would gladly trade places with most of those States. OK, except for the granola and Ritz places. And isn’t it weird that no State lists pretzels as a favorite? I would have thought that either Pennsylvania (which is famous for its Dutch pretzels) or Wisconsin (which is famous for the beer that goes with them) would have gone that direction, but no. And Wisconsin’s taste for both beer and Twix bars is kind of mystifying too.

I still cannot figure out the Indiana love of Pringles. Although I looked them up and it seems that my state was where they were first sold when introduced in 1968. I suppose that we may just be a loyal bunch here. Perhaps gullible too, because during that first five years the government allowed Pringles to be referred to on the cans as “potato chips”. Now they have to call them “crisps”. Because the government isn’t wrong about everything.

Although I might prefer living in a place that appreciates Cheetos (could that be the only reason to live in California these days?) or in Tennessee (because Baby Ruth. Best. Candy bar. Ever.), I am stuck here in Pringletopia.

If I have to be honest, the biggest problem with Pringles is that I don’t like them that well. Well, that and if someone hands me a can that is half full I will hand them back a can that is, well, not. As in not having any “crisps” left at all. And I hate myself afterwards. There is a certain level of respectability that comes from being able to say “I ate myself sick on Doritos” or “If I have another mini donut I am going to barf.” But admitting that you have gorged on Pringles is like admitting that you spent last evening at home glugging on a bottle of MD 20-20 or Richard’s Wild Irish Rose. “Gad, man – have you no standards?” is the question I ask myself, and am left with a quite unsatisfactory answer.

Sharp-eyed readers may have noticed that there is one state’s snack that I did not mention – that of Iowa. That is because Iowans share the shame of we Hoosiers as outsized fans of Pringles. But that’s OK. Perhaps we can start a support group. Or at least be a bad influence on Illinois, for a change.

Media Credits:

Opening photo: A collection of Pringles cans from the Reddit page ANormalDayInAmerica. It is not noted whether the photo was taken in Indiana or Iowa.

The Article referenced was found at http://www.domigood.com/2021/07/the-most-popular-junk-food-in-america.html

24 thoughts on “My State Has A Favorite Snack – And Boy Am I Embarassed

    • Yes, we only deal in the most important information here. 🙂 I, for one, wish the people who make Baby Ruth bars would assign a sales team to my state. If they are cheap enough and available enough, I am pretty sure we could be coaxed away from our cans of Pringles.

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  1. You forgot to mention one of the main ingredients in Pringles must be some sort of addictive drug, because it is virtually impossible not to eat a full can in a very little amount of time! Even if you try to put it away, you will go back in short order. AND, this has to be true because if you had a bag of “salt-reduced” Cape Cod Kettle Chips on your counter; they taste so much better than Pringles, there’s no comparison! So why the fevered eating of Pringles until that can is gone? Not to mention, the super high salt content! Even the half sized can raises my blood pressure enough to start a headache coming on! The Devils snack!

    BTW, I’ve lived in Wisconsin half my life, and I don’t get the Twix thing; they are the “second class” Kit Kat, which I DO love (especially the Dark Chocolate Kit Kat, when you can find them). I can tell you as a retired adman, I’ll bet most of this “preference” is based on availability, and the availability is based on marketing “give-backs” and “deals”. I used to see Kit Kat’s easily findable at gas stations and check-out counters, now replaced by Twix. People aren’t going to get out of line to go find their Kit Kat, they’ll just grab the next thing sort of like it, thereby building traffic. The Twix are there because they gave a better wholesale price on volume, and rebates to the seller based on prominent shelf position; as far as I’m concerned, they don’t taste as good. Ditto for Sprite, not as good as 7-Up, but created by Coke so that you can buy a “Full Coke” owned soda spread at your fast food restaurant. As a long term 7-Up drinker, I’ve seen the elimination of 7-Up by fast food places to streamline their purchasing. Sprite isn’t better, it’s acceptable enough for 7-Up drinkers to say OK to, because their soda of choice isn’t there, and was created to BE that…

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    • I would have loved to see more of the methodology for how they got this information, which is pretty suspect. And I am also sure you are right that it is all in the way the promos work. Availability drives lots of things like this, and in my area certain things are more available than others.

      And as for both Kit Kat and Twix – I’m sorry, but candy and cookies are two different things. Is it a cookie with candy on it (Like the Girl Scout Samoas)? Or is it a candy bar with cookie in it. People should pick one or the other. There are rules. (says the guy raised by Germans) 🙂

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  2. Pringles have their place, they are very good when camping or canoe tripping because of the efficient packaging and resistance to damage. The fact that everything tastes better when camping helps with the Pringles taste deficit as well.

    I’ve been told that my employer supplies the presses that dewater the potato slurry in the Pringles factory. I don’t know if that’s true but it does make me think of them more as an industrial product rather than a food.

    I couldn’t find an equivalent list for Canada to stoke my Canadian smugness at our superior choice of snacks, but it’s probably something like Hawkins Cheezies, which are just as bad if not worse.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I found this list for Canada, and I don’t necessarily agree with them all.

      https://www.pastemagazine.com/food/the-top-10-uniquely-canadian-snack-foods/#9-mackintosh-s-toffee

      I think Smarties should be on the list, as well as Lay’s Wavy potato chips. Jos Louis cakes are ok, but Flakies are much better from Vachon. I wouldn’t go near Thrills gum either.

      Poutine should be on the list for side dishes, but not as a snack food I suppose.

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      • Those Canadian snacks in your link all sound fascinating, and most of them sound quite good. I can’t imagine why nobody has done a ketchup-flavor potato chip here. The Jos Louis sounds a bit like the devils food cookies we get, but I would love to try one. And the maple cookies and the Coffee Crisp candy bar both sound fabulous!

        I simply cannot get on board with Smarties. They were always the last things left in my childrens’ Halloween buckets.

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    • I agree, Pringles has always been much more of an industrial marvel than something to enjoy eating. I would love to watch them being made.

      I was thinking that favored junk food for Canadians would somehow involve donuts. Perhaps not.

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  3. Never had issues with pringles myself in terms of taste. That said, as I’ve gotten older and more sensitive to issues surrounding trash and litter, I’ve begun to dislike anything that comes in a container that is not easily foldable / compressible. On those grounds, the pringles container is the most problematic aspect of the snack and, honestly, does not justify its existence.

    When it comes to my cheap, salty, processed-carbohydrate snack of choice, I’ve always been a Doritos man. The now-discontinued “Fiery Habanero” flavor was an all-time favorite in high school. https://www.change.org/p/frito-lay-bring-back-doritos-fiery-habanero

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    • Doritos came out when I was in high school, and soon after the originals came out, they introduced “Taco flavor”. Those became my favorites, and I ate a lot of them. Flavor number 3 was Nacho Cheese – and you know the rest. Can you even get original Doritos anymore? I saw where they brought back the Taco Flavor a few years ago, and we bought a couple of bags – I still cannot decide if they were really good or if it’s just the nostalgia talking.

      Packaging is indeed an environmental nightmare. I am far from an environmental nut, but modern consumer packaging is just silly.

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  4. JP, if it helps any, you aren’t alone in your embarrassment. Grandma’s cookies, by the Frito Lay and Pepsi people? Really? If I have ever had any, I sure don’t remember it. Now, if Google was reporting our favorite snack to be “Milo’s Sweet Tea”, they’d be onto something.

    Maybe I just need to move to Tennessee.

    Here’s where I think Google bungled it. People are looking for cookies like Grandma used to make. I just googled “where are grandma’s cookies made” and got all sorts of recipes for grandma-esque cookies right after the Frito-Lay website link. That’s throwing things off right there.

    As for Pringles…didn’t you all have some nasty hail a while back that tore up a bunch of roofs? I’m thinking spell check is twisting “shingles” into “Pringles” and causing that issue. Like you said, they likely taste about the same, although one is saltier.

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    • I remember liking Grandma’s Cookies when they first came out – I am a soft, chewy cookie guy, not a hard, crunchy cookie guy – so they had that going for them. But I have never bought them anywhere other than a convenience store or a snack counter. I wondered what about them appealed to those of you in Missouri, and you have me still wondering.

      I have started wondering if Pringles’ unique and uniform shape has inspired any more elaborate munchables, in the way that tortilla chips begat nachos. There may be some out there, but I have never seen them.

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  5. That was funny! Your description of Pringles was dead-on, only the Canadian version is totally lacking in salt, which is essential for any type of junk food crisp. Really you wouldn’t even know you were eating a potato chip? I like Lays and Fritos myself, mostly for the salt. My mother used to buy Pringles when I took her grocery shopping, but I stopped buying them when I did the pandemic shopping, and she has forgotten all about them, and for that I’m grateful. But then she likes Ritz crackers too – they say your taste buds go when you get older. What was your job in the potato chip factory?

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    • You are right – there is just not enough salt in Pringles.

      I worked one summer for Seyfert Foods in Fort Wayne. They were a regional snack food company, and Seyfert’s Potato Chips were their mainstay. They hired a bunch of college kids every summer, and our job was to sub in for folks who were taking vacations. The girls who got hired mostly worked in the production and packaging jobs, and the guys did mostly shipping, receiving and warehouse stuff – although I got a little production and packaging work in too. I learned 2 things on that job – first, that as of that time (1983, I think) nobody had invented a machine that could take twenty pretzel rods and put them into a bag without breaking too many of them. The second thing is that there are few things that taste better than a hot potato chip right out of the fryer.

      That job would make for a great blog post, now that you mention it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • A blog would be interesting….I have no idea how they make potato chips or how they get them so thin. My mother used to make flat chips (thin slices of potatoes) in a fryer of hot oil when we were kids for an occasional treat on Sunday nights, but it would take a long time to make enough batches to feed all of us. They were never as thin as chips, but I do remember the taste. I think this was before we got french fries at McDonalds!

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  6. When I got to the part about Colorado liking Cosmic Brownies I forgot that was the name of a Little Debbie’s product and thought it had to do with other types of brownies to be found in the state.
    I’m sorry, but I LOVE Pringle’s.

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  7. I’m glad you didn’t tread into those two recent cases JP – this Thanksgiving break was just what we needed after the angst and/or happiness in those recent two controversial verdicts – the Pringles post is light, just like Pringles. I don’t detest them … they don’t crack and break as they’re portable; they don’t grease up your fingers and who else makes a combo of potato chips that can be eaten in a certain order can resemble Thanksgiving dinner? Amazing! I haven’t had them in awhile but cheese and BBQ were my favorites. I was amused to see what treats that the Governors of Michigan and Ohio wagered for the Michigan/Ohio State game yesterday … it was a gift package of famous Michigan-made cherry sweets and treats from the Cherry Republic in Glen Arbor versus cream puffs from Schmidt’s in Columbus, black raspberry chip ice cream from Graeter’s in Cincinnati, chocolate-covered pretzels from Malley’s in Cleveland, and buckeye candies from Marsha’s Homemade Buckeyes in Perrysburg. Amazingly, Ohio pays up.

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