I have been very stressed about Walker’s most recent advertising campaign.
For those who haven’t seen it, the basic principle is that they are pitting two different flavours of crisps against each other – a new one and a “best of British” one. The one that sells the most out of each pairing will be the winner – meaning that the losing flavour will be discontinued. The flavours in question are:
Salt & Vinegar vs Lime & Black Pepper
Prawn Cocktail vs Paprika
Smoky Bacon vs Bacon & Cheese
Frankly I couldn’t care less about Smoky Bacon disappearing because I pretty much never buy it (and I actually like the sound of Bacon and Cheddar a lot). The loss of Prawn Cocktail would be a bitter pill to swallow. I do occasionally get a craving for them, although it’s got to be said that Skips are far superior when it comes to Prawn Cocktail flavouring. However, the prospect of losing Salt and Vinegar is an absolute travesty in itself and I for one will absolutely LOSE MY SHIT if the alternative flavour (which I’ll reluctantly admit sounds alright) claims victory.
There are three primary colours – red, yellow and blue. In the crisp world, there are three primary flavours. Ready Salted, Cheese and Onion – and the flavour in question, Salt and Vinegar. The Big Three have existed since the Stone Age. They’re well known, they’re well loved and they’re iconic. If crisps were presidents, they’d be George Washington. If they could sing, they’d be The Beatles.
A lot is at stake here.
When I was a child, I was often dubious of new flavours. I didn’t like cheese at all, in any form, so obviously Cheese and Onion was (and still is) absolutely off the cards. Even now, I won’t touch it. They taste foul, they smell foul and if I were Walkers, they would never have made the cut in the first place. For maybe the first eight to nine years of my life, I stuck to one particular flavour – Ready Salted. They’re simple. They’re delicious. They may be plain, but if you’re craving something savoury then you can’t go wrong with a bag of the red crisps. That was until my childhood best friend had a bag of Salt and Vinegar crisps in her lunchbox pretty much every day and, feeling somewhat adventurous, one day I asked to try one. Since then, I’ve never looked back – no other brand even holds a candle to the magnificent green packet of Salt & Vinegar Walkers. Salt and Vinegar Pringles? Nah mate – the ratio of vinegar to salt is off kilter. Supermarket own brand? Well, they’re usually in a blue packet so you’re already at a disadvantage. (Seriously, why can’t crisp companies agree on a colour? Ready Salted is universally red across the board, but the other two seem to switch between blue and green at will, providing absolutely no consistency at all and reducing consumer trust straight from the off.) Kettle Chips? Well they’re designed to be posh so they’re usually Sea Salt and Balsamic Vinegar which I do sometimes go for if they’re on offer and I’m feeling especially frisky. But in the context of the humble Meal Deal – Sainsbury’s or Tesco, I don’t mind which – there’s only one flavour to reach for.
I am the sort of person who will stuff a few crisps in a sandwich alongside it’s intended filling. Some may see this as improper, but I am inclined to disagree. I assume it’s been argued over which flavour is best for this sort of combination – but the clear winner for me is always going to be Salt and Vinegar, regardless of what else is in the sandwich (although I’ve found that Egg Mayo goes best with Ready Salted). Is Lime and Pepper even going to come close? Can it stand the test of time in the same way that Salt and Vinegar has? Are Walkers going to lead the way for other brands to start slashing base flavours willy-nilly? Will we start to see other needlessly adventurous flavours hit the nations shelves? Where do we draw the line? First it’s Lime and Black Pepper. Next, Orange and Parsley. Apple Pie and Custard. I mean, I enjoy the odd bit of fruit as much as the next person, and I am one of the people who stands in solidarity with pineapple as a pizza topping. Cranberry sauce on turkey is absolutely incredible, as is apple sauce on a hog roast – but fruit does not and will never belong in a bag of crisps. I’m all for being liberal and progressive and, after all, it is 2017 – but the foundations of the crisp industry have been in place for decades, why change now? What happened to “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?”
Maybe I’m being too cautious. I’ll admit that I’ve yet to try the Lime and Black Pepper crisps that are threatening to change everything we know and love, and flip the entire snack industry on it’s head. I’ve been dubious about purchasing a packet – because every bag bought is a vote against tradition. The problem I have is not about the taste of the crisps – in all honestly, I think Lime and Black Pepper is a stellar combination for a crisp flavour and I do actually want to try them – the issue is not the introduction of new flavours, but that they are trying to replace a national treasure with something that nobody asked for.
Where is Gary Lineker in all of this? How does he feel about the potential elimination of the sacred Salt and Vinegar crisp? Who’s idea was this campaign in the first place? Who was the member of the board meeting who said “I know, why don’t we make these flavours fight with each other!” and why where they not fired immediately? How do we know that sales are a reliable format of voting? It seems reasonable that there would be a positive spike in numbers for the new flavours because they’re new and people will want to try them to gauge if it’s worth giving up old favourites for – but surely that can’t be a completely reliable method of judging popularity? The more I think about it, the more I realise that it’s an absolute genius marketing technique on Walkers’ part – but is it really worth the risk of losing a much beloved snack? Methinks not.
As it stands, the future of the green bag hangs in the balance. Our only hope now is that the nation can unite as one, and prove to Walkers that the United Kingdom is not finished with Salt and Vinegar just yet.
Thanks for reading,