Remember when there were just three Doritos flavors?
Today’s Doritos' fans have a much different relationship with the corn chip snack than we did a generation ago when Original, Nacho Cheese and Cool Ranch seemed like plenty of Doritos flavors to choose from. Nowadays, Doritos launches new flavors like they’re reality television shows—there are way too many of them, they’re all essentially the same and they all pretty much suck. I just counted a dozen flavors on the Doritos website and most are slight variations on other flavors--Nacho and Spicy Nacho, BBQ and Spicy Chipotle BBQ, etc.
The brand even stepped out of the bag with the Taco Bell Doritos-flavored taco shell using its best-selling flavors. But that's so 2012. Consumers wait in anticipation for the next great mysterious move from Doritos…Now, the newest flavors aren’t really flavors at all. At least not ones with names.
Enter Doritos Jacked. This latest marketing gimmick recently outfitted Doritos’ packing with test flavor numbers rather than actual flavor names, designed to lure consumers into participating in the brand’s “taste experiment.” It offers “rewards” if you taste the chips inside the mystery bags and then vote for your favorite flavor. It reeks of the cigarettes rewards program that really just sucker you into smoking more tobacco. Jacked is nothing more than seeing how devoted Doritos’ consumers are. Would you eat a bag of chips if you didn’t know what flavor it was? Why do we give so much trust to a mega corporate food brand? Is indiscriminate snacking really all that fun?
But the fun doesn’t stop there. Doritos Roulette—exactly what it sounds like—features a smattering of super hot chips in a bag of otherwise not as hot Doritos. Oh, the anticipation each chip brings! They’re not yet available in the U.S. but it’s only a matter of time before this or another similar Doritos gimmick is available in your local 7-Eleven.
Frito-Lays' Doritos division has become a microcosm of the macro issue with our modern food system. In fact, Doritos Jacked and Roulette are both about as in-your-face-ha-ha-the-joke’s-on-you-dear-customer as you can get. Consumers are being suckered into gimmicks because of an unhealthy emotional relationship with unhealthy foodstuff. Tell me, Doritos! What flavor is it, you silly, delicious bag of chips! I just love you so much.
I'm no psychiatrist, but I'm pretty sure we're not supposed to be that emotionally invested in our food. At least not unless we're actually growing it ourselves. Otherwise, shouldn't we just look to find the healthiest options that we like the taste of? When we start agreeing to the games food brands proffer, we're entering into murky waters filled with the jagged shark-like teeth of corporate interests.
The irony, of course, is that most food brands do this in a much more veiled manner. (What exactly is a Crunch Berry?) You could even lump the rampant misuse of the term “natural” into this devious practice. We’re being told foods are “all natural” when they’re actually loaded with synthetic and genetically modified ingredients. It’s not only a jacked flavor experiment, but it’s also roulette.
There’s good news though.
Bloomberg Businessweek is reporting that sales of the Doritos Locos Taco Bell taco shell—which was the biggest product launch in the fast food chain’s history—have begun to drop. After the mega success of the initial launch, the brands teamed up again, but sales have never met expectations: “In the quarter after the company launched [Doritos Locos Tacos] in 2012, same-store sales jumped 13 percent. Then the Cool Ranch-flavored variety, which hit stores in March 2013, resulted in a smaller, single-digit sales increase. With each successive DLT launch—Fiery DLTs last summer and this year’s Spicy Chicken DLT—the impact has diminished,” reports Bloomberg.
Even though the new Doritos flavors seem to be most appealing to a male youth market, schools are now banning snacks like Doritos from being sold on campuses, making it difficult for kids to access. And we can only hope they also start to lose their taste for this stuff.
We can also look at these deranged marketing ploys as what they really are—acts of desperation. Yes, Big Food may still be dominating our food system, but as the saying goes, the darkest hour is always just before the dawn. I'm pretty sure that applies to mystery-flavored chips too.
Find Jill on Twitter @jillettinger
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Image: the past tends to disappear