The leaves are beginning to fall outside, but it’s still unseasonably warm, the kind of weather where you leave the house in the morning wearing your winter coat and then regret it before you reach the train station; it’s the time of year when every supermarket replaces its token flower displays at the front with a large pile of pumpkins and lurid, orange-wrapped sweets shaped like ghosts and ghouls.
It can mean only one thing – that’s right – it’s the Christmas-crisp flavour announcement time!
Truly the most wonderful time of the year.
The Big Idea
Christmas food shopping is serious business in the UK – spending on Christmas food in 2017 was £1 billion higher than it was the year before – that’s a lot of vol-au-vents!
Supermarkets and brands that want to stand out in a market flooded full of Christmas food whimsy have to go some to differentiate themselves from the competition.
One way to do this is with the aid of PR – launch a Christmassy food product that’s either so luxurious or ridiculous sounding that the media will be bound to cover it.
In recent times, this insight has led to something of a Christmas-food arms race.
The first wave was the ‘mini’ canape wave – take a popular meal such as a roast dinner and then turn it into a mini, half-decent canape, et voila! Mini Yorkshire puddings.
Next, supermarkets set their sights on adding some innovation to the humble British crisp.
‘What if we could take a much-loved foodstuff and make it more Christmassy?’, they thought to themselves – never thinking of the consequences.
This led to the creation of such classics as the super-decadent stilton-and-port flavour crisps and at the other end of the scale – gin-and-tonic flavour crisps because, well why not?
Then things started getting out of hand – flashforward to 2018 and Iceland has launched Christmas-tree-flavour salted crisps.
What They Did
Every major player in the snacking sector (I assume that’s probably what they call it) now has to compete with each other to launch an even more outlandish crisp flavour and 2018 is no different.
If you’re trying to get press coverage for your Christmas crisps there’s two ways of doing of it, according to the ancient by-laws of PR:
Option 1. Go big on luxury – that’s the route that Pringles has gone down this year with its Christmas-dinner edition Prosecco-and-pink-peppercorn flavour crisps. This route is designed to get people salivating by adding premium ingredients to the crunchy crisp blank canvas. This route works if you’re a Tyrells/Kettle Chips – but are fans of Pringles really that bothered by premium ingredients like pink peppercorns? We’ll find out this December.
Option 2. Go big on WTF – that’s the route Iceland has gone down with its Christmas-tree flavour salted crisps – yes that’s right – ready-salted crisps with the addition of pine-tree oil. The aim of this route isn’t to produce a tasty product, it’s more food-based trolling.
Brits are fiercely protective of crisps and so anyone challenging the sanctity of crisps with maverick flavourings is bound to get tongues wagging. Which is of course the point – if you read about someone releasing Christmas-tree flavour salted crisps your first reaction is either revulsion, anger or to laugh – or maybe all three. Then maybe after that you might consider doing your Christmas shop at Iceland perhaps?
When Pringles release a Prosecco-flavour crisp you’d be well within your rights to say is this all getting a bit too much?
The answer? Perhaps.
Did it get media coverage? Yes.
Will one of your friends bring these round to your Christmas drinks as a ‘bit of fun’? Probably.
Do they almost certainly taste like your breath smells the morning after your office Christmas party? No doubt.
The ongoing success of novelty Christmas crisp flavour from a PR perspective year on year comes down to two things – Brits love crisps, I mean really love crisps – insult Pickled Onion Monster Munch in the wrong company and you’ll find yourself ostracised from future group chats for life.
Secondly, Brits love complaining about stuff; really, really love complaining about stuff. So novelty crisps sit right in the sweet spot between these two insights.
There isn’t really a hindsight – Pandora’s box is open and there’s going to be no end to novelty Christmas crisps – they are now officially a 'thing'.
This year if your kids are being really being bad don’t threaten with a lump of coal, say that Santa will deliver them some pine-scented crisps in their stocking this year.