Leftovers: PepsiCo brings potato chips to booze; Truly mixes up its seltzer lineup with margaritas


Leftovers is our look at a few of the product ideas popping up everywhere. Some are intriguing, some sound amazing and some are the kinds of ideas we would never dream of. We can’t write about everything that we get pitched, so here are some leftovers pulled from our inboxes.

PepsiCo creates a buzz with new Lay’s vodka

Even as PepsiCo prepares to make a big splash in the alcohol space through its partnership with Boston Beer, the beverage and snack giant is getting an early buzz thanks to a new booze involving its Lay’s potato chip.

The company’s Frito-Lay division is partnering with Oregon-based Eastside Distilling to create Lay’s Potato Vodka, a spirit made with the same potatoes used for its popular chip. The offering, which cost $40 a bottle, proved to be so popular that it sold out in hours.

“At Lay’s, we’re always looking for new and innovative ways to bring joy and fun to our fans,” Melissa Miranda, senior director of marketing at Frito-Lay North America, told Forbes. “And you never know what future plans we have up our sleeves!”

PepsiCo is wading into booze early this year through a hard offering under the Mtn Dew brand as part of a partnership announced last summer with Sam Adams maker Boston Beer.

The new chip-infused vodka is not the first unique collaboration to hit the alcohol space. 

In November, Arby’s introduced two limited-run vodka flavors inspired by its curly and crinkle-cut fries. Each bottle sold for $60.

Kraft Heinz’s Grey Poupon announced last year a limited-edition white wine, La Moutarde Vin, with mustard seeds from the popular condiment. Kellogg partnered with House Wine to create a box that is half Kellogg’s Cheez-It crackers and half a variety of House Wine. And Mondelēz International partnered with Barefoot Wine to create a red blend that complements the chocolate, cookies and creme flavors of its Oreo Thins.

As well-known brands such as Lay’s, Grey Poupon, Cheez-It and Oreo look to expand their reach, partnering on alcoholic beverages might be a way to pique the attention of consumers who may not use their product, or haven’t tried it in a while. It also allows PepsiCo, Kraft Heinz, Kellogg and Mondelēz to tap into the expertise of a booze company that is familiar with the space.

Many segments of the alcohol category have grown during the ongoing pandemic. Total beverage alcohol volume in the U.S. in 2020, the latest year figures are available, rose 2%, marking the largest gain for alcohol consumption in the country since 2002, according to data from IWSR. The increase was driven in part by flavor, something the Lay’s Potato Vodka has found a clever way to tap into.

— Christopher Doering


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Courtesy of Truly Hard Seltzer


Truly mixes up margarita flavors for hard seltzer

When Americans are asked what their favorite cocktail is in surveys, there’s one drink that continuously comes up. The margarita, a Mexican restaurant menu staple, has been the most popular mixed drink for years, but now its flavors are bleeding into another popular alcohol category.

Boston Beer has launched margarita-inspired Truly hard seltzers. Like the cocktail itself, they come in a variety of flavors: Classic Lime, Strawberry Hibiscus, Watermelon Cucumber and Mango Chili. They contain no distilled spirits, but are sweetened with agave nectar and also contain lime juice concentrate and sea salt.

This new product line comes after a tumultuous 2021 for the hard seltzer brand and the category in general. After years of growth, slower than predicted sales led Boston Beer CEO Dave Burwick to admit in its second quarter earnings call that the beverage giant had overestimated demand for Truly. Other hard seltzer manufacturers like Constellation Brands have also acknowledged a slowdown in category sales.

By adding the flavors of a margarita, the brand could introduce Truly to a wider demographic now that the initial hard seltzer boom has settled. This has worked for another brand looking to spice up its offerings: AB InBev’s Bud Light found success with its margarita-inspired Ritas line of beverages, which launched in 2012.

Truly isn’t the only seltzer brand turning to flavors inspired by tequila beverages — without actually containing tequila. Molson Coors’ Topo Chico hard seltzer, made in collaboration with Coca-Cola and set for a nationwide launch in 2022, recently announced a new variety based on the famous Texas Ranch Water cocktail.

— Chris Casey


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Courtesy of Frito-Lay


Frito-Lay makes Cool Ranch Flamin’ Hot

It’s hard to make a food item that is both hot and cool at the same time, but with the newest flavor of Doritos, Frito-Lay seems to have pulled it off.

The snack maker’s signature Cool Ranch Doritos have finally been given the Flamin’ Hot treatment, resulting in a chip that is as much of a mouthful to say as it is to enjoy: Flamin’ Hot Cool Ranch Doritos. In a press release, Frito-Lay North America’s Senior Director of Marketing Caio Correa said that the new flavor takes Doritos’ penchant for bold and pairs it with a “spicy new edge.”

Cool Ranch Doritos debuted in 1986 and their taste, which is somewhat evocative of the iconic buttermilk dressing, has been a favorite of snackers ever since. The Cool Ranch variety has been a Doritos standard for the last 35 years, and nearly half of respondents in a Mashed poll last year ranked it as the best flavor of the chip brand. Cool Ranch has a solid footing in pop culture as well, with track and field star Christina Clemons causing a social media sensation when she qualified to represent the U.S. at the Tokyo Olympics wearing a pair of earrings that looked like bags of Cool Ranch Doritos.

Considering the widespread popularity of Cool Ranch Doritos, it’s almost surprising that they hadn’t received the Flamin’ Hot treatment yet. The Flamin’ Hot line was born in 1992 with Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, and has since spread to all sorts of products made by PepsiCo — Doritos, Ruffles, Lay’s, Funyuns, Smartfood popcorn and Mtn Dew.

But since there’s nothing inherently cool — temperature wise — about Cool Ranch Doritos, adding spice to the zesty chip flavor seems like it would be a winner among consumers. Preliminary reviews have been positive. The chips are hitting store shelves nationwide this month, heralding both a hot and cool 2022.

— Megan Poinski

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