The Real Reason These Potato Chip Flavors Were Discontinued

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Whether it's a barbecue, a ball game, or the welcoming arms of a La-Z Boy, we can always count on potato chips to have our backs. That is until we discover our favorite flavor is missing from the shelves, having vanished overnight like some cruel magic trick. Anytime one of our ride-or-die snacks is discontinued, we're left feeling hollow inside with nothing but a grumbling stomach to show for it. We can't help it. In this topsy-turvy world of ours, reaching into that grease-stained bag during a Netflix binge is one of those small indulgences that put us at ease. When that's gone, what else do you have?

For a potato chip flavor to be discontinued, there's usually some explanation of why the company got rid of it in the first place. But most of the time, they seem to disappear without so much as a heads up to longtime customers. It's a frustrating, albeit understandable, grievance. But none of this is done to mess with dedicated snackers and their tastes. The real reason any flavor is phased out can be attributed to multiple factors. Among them are low demand, tight competition, business woes, and in rare occurrences, public health scares. Here, we'll take a trip down memory lane to revisit the potato chips of yore who've graced our cupboards and the real reasons you won't find them in stores today. 

Lay's Wavy Fried Green Tomato

Fried green tomatoes are pure Southern comfort food, as well as the inspiration behind an award-winning movie. So it made sense Lay's would embrace the deep-fried delicacy in the one way it knew how: the humble potato chip. Per PopSugar, the flavor Fried Green Tomato was part of the 2017 Do Us A Flavor campaign alongside the flavor Everything Bagel with Cream Cheese and Crispy Taco (the winner). Lays reproduced the beloved dish by using zesty seasonings and a hearty, wavy shape, with an extra crunch that mimicked the summertime treat perfectly. After its stint as a finalist, however, Lay's pulled it from production altogether.

What would lead to this unusual flavor being discontinued, then? Most of the contest picks tend to be limited-edition, and realistically, Lay's needs to free up space for other flavors coming down the pike. According to Harvard Business Journal, flavors like Fried Green Tomato tend to drop in sales because not enough people buy them, which usually means they're not selling well enough to warrant the shelf space they've claimed. In other words, there's simply not enough room to keep every chip flavor in rotation, which means cuts have to be made. Unfortunately, Fried Green Tomato was one of the unlucky ones. While most definitely a bummer, fans can always whip up the real thing using our recipe as a guide. It won't be a potato chip necessarily, but it'll be crunchy, snackable, and, most importantly, delicious. 

Doritos Pizza Cravers

When junk food icons merge, beautiful things are guaranteed to happen. One great example of this is a snack the masterminds at Doritos and Pizza Hut launched together in the 1990s called Doritos Pizza Cravers. A teenager's dream snack all the way down to its blindingly-orange cheese dust, these triangular delights tasted like the best of both brands. A 1996 commercial shows the kind of chaos these chips unleash when a hungry camper takes a bite — namely, a fleet of beavers (puppet beavers) chopping and sawing their way to a fully-formed log cabin under the tagline "Life With Doritos" (via Reddit). 

But later in the decade, Doritos Pizza Cravers were nowhere to be seen. Now, being discontinued had nothing to do with its popularity. Not even close. The real reason these chips disappeared from shelves, and eventually people's memories, was because of a business shake-up. Frito-Lay's parent company PepsiCo, which also owned Pizza Hut, created a separate department for its fast food portfolio now known as Yum! Brands. As seen by the company's timeline per Zippia, this shift lines up with the snack's departure from its ties with Pizza Hut and its eventual retirement. Recent rumors, according to Delish, have hinted at a flavor in the works that are inspired by pepperoni pizza, so we'll be keeping our fingers crossed the nostalgia comes back in some capacity. 

Cheetos Paws

"The cheese that goes crunch" could describe most Cheetos on the market, but in this case, it refers to Cheetos Paws (via YouTube). According to Timeline Maker, the paw-shaped snacks enjoyed a brief moment in the early 90s, even inspiring multiple TV commercials along the way. But in 1993, something strange happened. Cheetos Paws were retired for good. It's a shame a snack like this would only last a couple of short years, seeing that it encapsulates everything that's downright addictive about it — the cheese, the crunch — and in an adorable paw shape to boot. Who could, in good faith, retire it?

As we've covered, companies pull products without offering any explanation all of the time. It's, unfortunately, quite common. But PepsiCo, to its credit, has answered fans inquiring about a snack's whereabouts, including Cheetos Paws. In a Facebook group dedicated to discontinued Cheetos products, a representative expressed apologies before sharing some insight into why Cheetos Paws probably faded away. "Sometimes stores stop carrying slower-selling items to make room for other products," they wrote. "When this happens, at too many stores, it's difficult to continue making and selling the product." It's the ugly side of the junk food world, but a reality nonetheless. 

Lay's Cheddar Bacon Mac & Cheese

Potato chips are considered comfort food, and so is macaroni and cheese. In that case, why not combine them into the ultimate comfort snack? Cheddar Bacon Mac & Cheese was another finalist in Lay's Do Us A Flavor contest per Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery, and it seemed like a natural fit for a potato chip flavor. Salty, cheesy, and with a hint of smokiness, it replicates the gooey pasta dish in a snack you can eat on the go. Pretty genius, if you ask us. Regardless, its surface-level appeal didn't stop Lay's from sending it to flavor purgatory. 

So what went wrong? Like any food that takes the nation by storm — in this case, wacky-flavored chips — the novelty wore off. Harvard Business School has established that the contest is a boon for Lay's profits but fails to capture any long-term interest on behalf of consumers. People might like the idea of a potato chip that resembles bacon macaroni and cheese in theory, but in execution, it doesn't grab people's attention — or tastebuds — in any meaningful way. We imagine Cheddar Bacon Mac & Cheese suffered a similar fate. Like most discontinued chips, they get the throwback treatment now and then. Sam's Club brought them back for a hot minute, per Brand Eating — but we wouldn't count on these sticking around in the near future. 

Keebler Pizzaria Pizza Chips

Pizzaria Pizza Chips were a home run for Keebler when they launched in 1991 (via Retroist). Besides being one of the brand's biggest sellers per Snack Food Association, these chips were made out of actual pizza dough, baked to a crispy finish with mouthwatering seasonings. No wonder it was a hit. And even though every kid's (or gamer's) fingers were stained with them, they never made it to the new millennium. The snack aisle was forever left with a permanent, pizza-shaped hole that hasn't been filled since, even with a Facebook group that's currently almost 7,000 members strong. 

It's clear that demand, or lack thereof, was not the issue responsible for Pizzarias' demise. It turns out, that Pizzarias disappeared through the cracks of Keebler's business dealings. In the late 1990s, Keebler's parent company United Biscuits decided to put Keebler for sale, and they were promptly gobbled up by two other conglomerates, Artal Luxembourg and Flowers Industries, per Zippia. As a result of the move, a number of Keebler products ended up getting scrapped from production. Guess what sadly got the boot? Pizzarias, that's what. Not all potato chips are meant to stick around forever, but Pizzarias was not your ordinary chip. And with the exception of those lucky enough to have snacked on them at their peak, they remain a distant memory. 

Lay's Garden Tomato & Basil

Zesty and aromatic perfectly describes Garden Tomato & Basil, a flavor that Lay's released in 2011. Like sitting by a vegetable garden on a hot summer day, as a culinary scientist from Frito-Lay explained via YouTube, it remains one of the more evocative snacks in Lay's lineup. Plenty of potato chips boast some blend of tomato or basil flavoring, but it's rare to see such an herby, summery take on the snack. We'd pair these with a cold sub, no questions asked.  

Though backyard barbecues and patio hangs are things we'd like to do all year, seasons do come to an end. And as Frito-Lay confirmed on Twitter, so do potato chips like Garden Tomato & Basil. Nothing unsavory or scandalous influenced this flavor's exit from the stage. If anything, the real reason explains most discontinued potato chips that are here one day and gone the next: supply and demand. Stores will only supply the flavors customers want to buy, and the ones that fly off the shelves will be the ones re-stocked for future purchases. Frito-Lay didn't exactly state this in its explanation, but we think it's confirmed by just putting two and two together. If you continue to crave that delicious tomato-basil flavor, there's hope for you yet. According to a Facebook commenter, the Chicago Deep Dish flavor apparently tastes just like it. Perhaps it's not discontinued after all!

Pringles Ketchup

What American doesn't love ketchup? There's no limit to what can be dipped, dunked, and drenched with the zingy condiment, and going by that logic, a ketchup-flavored chip was only a matter of time. So the fact that Pringles Ketchup was only available in Canada and Europe before making its way to the U.S. is, frankly, quite shocking (via Teen Vogue). At first glance, there shouldn't be anything unusual about this Pringles flavor. French fries are made of potatoes. Ketchup is made from tomatoes. The seasoning includes flavors found in the real thing, like salt, garlic powder, and paprika (via Pringles), and it's also a brilliant red color. Just like the real thing. 

That being said, none of it stopped Pringles from pulling it out of production — at least in America, anyway. On Twitter, the company cited lower demand as its reason for discontinuing the flavor in 2020. Since it came out in 2017, that means it vanished within a matter of three years. It's still sold in Canada, which is the best bet for any U.S. fans wanting to get their hands on it. For an option that doesn't guzzle gas that can be found at every convenience store on the block, Pizza Pringles. Those aren't going anywhere, thankfully. 

Lay's WOW Chips

Sometimes, the real reasons potato chips get discontinued are too hard to digest. Remember Wow Chips? During the diet craze of the late 1990s, Lay's unveiled non-fat potato chips that calorie-counters would feel good about eating. They consisted of Lay's, Ruffles, and Doritos with a meager 75 calories and zero grams of fat, all as a result of its not-so-secret ingredient Olestra (via Fast Company). Olestra works as a fat substitute, per WebMD, and with FDA approval, it wasn't unheard of to find it on nutritional labels all over. That so, this little additive harbored a pretty, erm, explosive secret for all who consumed it, to the point that Lay's permanently axed it years later. 

If you guessed stomach issues, that's putting it lightly. According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, people who'd eaten Wow Chips reported experiencing horrible side effects, including diarrhea, bloating, vomiting, and abdominal cramps. This is because Olestra contains properties that are incompatible with the human body's digestive system, and when the body is unable to digest food, it leads to, well, a lot of visits to the bathroom. Predictably, it spawned countless complaints and, in some cases, even lawsuits (via Consumer Affairs). In a bit of PR spin, Frito-Lay rebranded the chips as Lay's Light, but Consumer Affairs noted the new version still featured the fat additive in all its unsavory glory. To absolutely no one's surprise, this is a reboot nobody would want to see. 

Husman's Potato Chips

Ask any Cincinnati resident about salty snacks, and the chances of Husman's coming up are a guarantee. Beginning as a one-man operation in 1919, generations have found comfort crunching on a bag of Original chips as well as flavors such as Bar-B-Q, Sour Cream & Onion, and Cheddar & Sour Cream (per Utz). The brand even reached its 100th birthday. Simply put, these potato chips have been around for a long time. Long enough to feel like forever. So imagine seeing the news last year that parent company Utz was discontinuing the entire Husman's label, thus ending a century-long legacy in the junk food business. 

According to the Cincinnati Business Courier, it was dwindling profits and low demand that sealed Husman's fate. Utz revealed that the brand struggled to match the competition of other nibbles on the market and forced the snack supplier to make some cuts to the lineup, resulting in the "difficult decision" to get rid of Husman's altogether (via WCPO-TV). To Utz's credit at least, there would be new snacks rolling out with the same staff employed as before. Still, fans were intent on treating their tastebuds one last time, to the point of customers zipping from store to store to grab the remaining bags, per Journal-News. Gone, but definitely not forgotten. 

Ruffles Cajun Spice

Because of the meteoric rise of celebrity chef Paul Prudhomme, Cajun cuisine soared throughout the 1980s (via Eater). Every dish seemed to feature a charred, smokey disposition, with enough cayenne to bring a horse to its knees. Ruffles, everyone's favorite ridged chip, made sure to hop on the bandwagon as well, and in 1986 it arrived in a predictably on-point flavor, Cajun Spice (per Gone But Not Forgotten). For Gen-Xers with a fuzzy memory, the commercial featuring food personality Justin Wilson and his heavy Louisiana accent might ring a couple bells, if his iconic catchphrase, "I guarantee," doesn't (per Reddit). 

By modern standards, a New Orleans-inspired potato chip feels very ahead of the curve. Looking at the junk food aisle today, it's not hard to visualize Cajun Spice next to savory varieties like Crab or Dill Pickle. But as Gone But Not Forgotten points out, trends have a quick shelf life. Unfortunately, Cajun cuisine's spike in pop appeal ultimately fizzled, bringing Cajun Spice Ruffles down with it. It doesn't seem like Ruffles ever tried bringing it back, which we imagine "ruffled" quite a few feathers of diehard fans who miss its full-throated spiciness. At least we can always count on Sour Cream & Onion to get us through life's cravings.