Thursday, September 19, 2013

Utz the Difference...?

   Yeah...this is going to be one of those weird posts wherein I ponder something that just randomly came to mind as I was doing something very simple and ordinary. Actually, I’m going to do more than just ponder. Let me start from the beginning and explain what I was doing when questions formed in my head...without answers. Last week I was food shopping. Yes...I tend to do that every now and then, it helps to keep me alive...the whole eating thing. As is my bad habit that I’m trying to kick, but not nearly as hard as I should, I meandered down the chip isle...and began searching for the perfect potato chip.

   I suppose I should know by now that the selection doesn’t change from week to week, so my search for the perfect chip is pretty much going to always net the gains....none. My health is always on my mind, so yes, it weighs on me (literally) when I ponder my weakness for potato chips. That said, I look for the least artificial ones (as if) and try to get the lowest sodium count available (and surprisingly, chips are getting better with this). 

   In my most recent search, I noticed something very curious...Utz. Now to be clear, this is not a new brand to me, in fact, it’s not a new brand at all. They have several varieties of chips and popcorn on the market, but what caught my eye was the seemingly same type of chip, offered in different packaging. I thought it odd that they would put the same chip in several different bags...label it the same, but change the design of the bag. I started to think “marketing ploy” which prompted further investigation.

   Further investigation yielded the subtle differences in the chips, that a cursory glance of the packaging did not. I’ll note here that all the compared products have a sodium content of 75 mg per serving.Observe...

   Utz Mystic Potato Chips, labeled as “all natural” and “reduced fat” (40% less fat to be precise). Also billed as “New England Style Kettle Cooked.” Price: $ weight 7 oz.

   Utz Kettle Classics, labeled as “reduced fat” (40% less fat again), gluten free and priced at $3.69 (2 for $6.00 as a store special). Net weight 8 oz.

   Utz Natural (40% reduced fat) Kettle Cooked Gourmet Potato Chips. Once again “gluten free,” but priced at $3.99. Net weight 8.5 oz.

   I suppose the price reflected the actual volume of chips accurately, but again, I was fascinated at the multiple offering of reduced fat kettle cooked potato chips. There had to be some other difference besides the volume of chips...right? seems the process has something to do with all of this. I like to read the fine print when I shop, because that’s where all the important information is offered. I guess the manufactures figure you will not bother to read the fine print...or your eyes are simply just too defective to make out the information. In my case, neither explanation reflects the truth. The truth was laid before me in plain English...under the heading “ingredients.”

   Utz Mystic Potato Chips are also a gluten free product...according to the fine print, not the visible packaging. The primary difference between the others is “cooked in 100% cottonseed oil.”

   Utz Kettle Classics are “cooked in pure peanut oil” (with sea salt added).

   Utz Natural (40% reduced fat) Kettle Cooked Gourmet Potato Chips “cooked in 100% expeller-pressed sunflower oil” (with sea salt added).

   So, it seems I am being offered the same chip, just differentiated by each other solely by the oil it is cooked in. I don’t have a problem with that...I just think it’s very interesting. Ultimately, the true test of quality comes from a personal preference of taste. So the final judgment shall be rendered upon a proper taste test.

   The differences in taste (and there is a very slight difference) is absolutely negligible...detected only by eating way more chips than I should have. I’ll venture to say that if all these chips were offered at a social function in the same bowl...very few people would be able to tell the difference in them. have a peanut allergy, then the Utz Kettle Classics would certainly stand the packaging should, more than the gold trim at the bottom attesting to the peanut oil process (peanut allergies are serious).

   So...Utz the difference...? The oil, and little more than that. If you like potatoes like I do, it doesn’t even matter.

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