Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Get Your Snack On (Eating With Amy)

Imagine my surprise to see a pile of individual bags of Munchos lying across the middle of a table in my kids' school gym! "Munchos! I haven't seen these in YEARS!"

"Here -- take as many as you want," the principal told me. "They've already expired, so somebody needs to eat them." The day was April 12. I asked another mom to look at the expiration date. "April 4," she said.

"April 4? What year? 1975?"

I had not seen these delicious potato crisps since I had packed them in my Holly Hobbie lunchbox, which looked JUST LIKE the one pictured below. They still make Munchos? I was Out of Control. The other mom just nodded and wandered away. I, however, could not get over this great news that, despite their expiration, Munchos were still being distributed ... SOMEwhere.

As soon as I got home, I went straight to the most reliable source of information I could think of: Wikipedia. And this is what I learned...

When originally introduced circa 1973, the original ad campaign included the phrase, "It's MUNCHOS!" spoken in a really high voice. At that time, a bag sold for fifty-nine cents retail (now $2.99 -- $3.29 in some areas -- for a 7.25-ounce bag or 99 cents for a "Big Grab").
Due to the high production costs, advertising and prolific commercial distribution of Munchos is limited, if not nonexistent, although they can be commonly found in many areas of the midwestern and southwestern United States.

In Roger Enrico's (former CEO of Pepsi) book, "Cola Wars", (1990), he says that he had to prove himself to the company when the introduction in the market of a product called "Fritos" lowered Munchos sales.
So there's the problem: Living in the SouthEAST does not easily lend itself to delighting in the snack sensation that is Munchos, which I've always insisted is the result of Pringles and Bugles marrying and having offspring.
And who would have thought Fritos would be to blame for the second-tier status of Munchos? Given a choice, I would take Munchos over Fritos ANY day; although, I do love a good Frito.

This just in ... from Time Magazine, Oct. 17, 1969:

Dallas-based Frito-Lay, which claims to be the biggest chip maker in the U.S. and uses Comic Buddy Hackett to munch chips on TV commercials, sides with the institute. But Frito-Lay is hedging its bet by test-marketing Munchos, a potato snack that it carefully labels "potato crisps." Francis X. Rice, president of the institute, concedes that "synthetic" chips do have advantages. Pringles, for example, have a longer shelf life and are not nearly so fragile as potato chips because they are uniformly round and come neatly stacked in tall cardboard canisters. Partly because of the costly packaging, the dehydrated chips cost about 15% more than regular chips. Pringles taste and look much like real potato chips, but they are not as crisp.

Fast-forward to 2008: Where does a girl in the deep South go to find Munchos (the unexpired variety that isn't in the school gym)? To Google, of course. That is where I found, an Atlanta-based company that delivers snacks and beverages to offices throughout the metro Atlanta area, where I do not live. CVCoffee sells Munchos for the bargain price of $.46/bag (probably by the case).

So I Googled some more, and that led me to the product locator element on the Frito-Lay website, where I entered my zip code and found (and you won't believe this) that Munchos are sold at about a half-dozen gas stations ALL AROUND ME.

Well, well, well! This is FANTASTIC news! I may not have that most wonderful and insulated Holly Hobbie lunchbox anymore, but I can still get my snack on at the Kwik Stop. I'll be munchin' like it's 1975 all over again ...