Frito-Lay says Wasabi Ginger won its contest that gives people a chance to create a new flavor, beating out the coffee-flavored chips and the two other finalists — Mango Salsa and Cheddar Bacon Mac & Cheese. Parent company PepsiCo Inc. says about 1 million total votes were cast online for the Do Us A Flavor promotion, a sales driver it has launched in more than a dozen countries.
In the U.S., bags of the four finalist flavors hit shelves in late July and people were able to vote on Facebook and Twitter for their favorites through this past weekend. It was the second year for the U.S. contest, which is designed to send customers to stores in search of the flavors. Last year's winner, Cheesy Garlic Bread, is still on shelves.
The winner, Meneko Spigner McBeth, was to be informed at a dinner for finalists Monday night in New York City, with an announcement from the company expected Tuesday. McBeth, a registered nurse from Deptford, New Jersey, will get $1 million or a portion of a year in sales, whichever figure is larger.
Ram Krishnan, Frito-Lay's chief marketing officer, said this year's winner is evidence Americans want more ethnic flavors, even though the top four Lay's flavors remain Original, Barbecue, Cheddar & Sour Cream and Sour Cream & Onion. He said he couldn't have imagined Lay's selling a Wasabi Ginger flavor when he joined the company eight years ago.
"We're kind of getting into a new flavor territory," Krishnan said. "When I went to school, Mexican food was exotic."
As for the cappuccino flavor — which was described as "NASTY" and "gross" in some comments on Lay's Facebook page — Krishnan defended its performance, although he wouldn't say how many votes it got.
"The fact that it made it out of our selection process to make it to the final four is no small feat," he said.
The contest began in the United Kingdom, where Frito-Lay sells chips under the Walkers brand. Since then, it was launched in 14 countries before coming to the U.S. last year. Winning flavors in other countries include Pizza in Saudi Arabia, Shrimp in Egypt, Sunday Roast in New Zealand, Pickled Cucumber in Serbia and Aline's Caesar Salad in Australia.
Given its success, Krishnan said the company is looking to launch the contest in other countries as well.
Krishnan wouldn't specify how much of a sales lift the contest provides. But in the latest quarter that ended Sept. 6, PepsiCo, based in Purchase, New York, said revenue for its Frito-Lay North America division rose 3 percent, reflecting a 2 percent gain in volume and 1 percent gain from higher prices.