Saturday, April 8, 2023

Rap Snacks reinvents the potato chip for Americans

Mapco Rap Snacks rack.
RJ Peltz-Steele CC BY-NC-SA 4.0
Peckish in a Mapco convenience store in Memphis last weekend, I was confronted unexpectedly with a wall of provocative pleasures: rapper potato chips.

It turns out Rap Snacks has been around since 1994. It was the brainchild of Philadelphia native, Miami-based entrepreneur James Lindsay, CEO.  According to his bio, Lindsay cut his teeth in marketing in ethnic hair products. In 1994, he thought to partner with Universal Records, simultaneously capitalizing on and expanding the brands of rappers and hip-hop artists, selling chips (crisps) and quickly building a $5m company.

Recently I binged season 11 of Jared Keeso's brilliant, if not safe for work, Canadian sitcom, Letterkenny. In episode 1, "Chips," the gang debates the best potato chip. They rightly note that flavored chips were pioneered in North America by Canadians, who have long had a more diverse chip palate than Americans. Flavors such as dill, ketchup, and roast chicken have been around for decades. I remember being awed by the range of available delights when I first visited my cousins in Ontario in 1989.

The chìp de résistance of the Canadian market is the "all-dressed." Mainer Liz Provencher for Thrillist sang the chip's praises, describing its mélange: "a masterpiece of ketchup, barbecue, sour cream and onion, and salt and vinegar flavors all rolled into one chip." When the characters of Letterkenny debated the best chip, they agreed that the all-dressed would have to be excluded, or there would be no contest.

The Lil Baby "All In."
RJ Peltz-Steele CC BY-NC-SA 4.0
In recent years, the American market has at last evinced some appetite to experiment, and Rap Snacks has obliged. The colorful packaging of artist visages is complemented by a range of daring flavors. Hoping to seize on an American equivalent of the all-dressed, I selected a chip that had a lot going on. The Lil Baby "All In" chip boasts "salt & vinegar, BBQ, onion, garlic, and more."

Mmmm. The All In was Right On. Welcome to America, flavor. 

You can find Rap Snacks with the store locator, or order in bulk online. Visit the flavor booth to put your own face on a bag of chips.

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