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New Flavor

Pepsi's Million-Dollar Potato Chip

Pepsi's Million-Dollar Potato Chip

Photograph by York Images/Gallery Stock

Thanks to a children’s librarian from Land O’ Lakes, Wis., Americans can now eat Cheesy Garlic Bread potato chips for the rest of the year. Karen Weber-Mendham won the Lay’s “Do Us A Flavor” contest on May 7, taking home $1 million by beating out finalist flavors Chicken & Waffles and Sriracha.

“The Cheesy Garlic Bread flavor brings you to a place of comfort,” says Michael Symon, a celebrity chef and one of those who sorted through the 3.8 million submissions to select the final three. All of them were available in stores this spring, and people voted for their favorite online. The Chicken & Waffles chips had strong hints of maple syrup, Symon says. And the Sriracha tasted like … Sriracha. It was the most adventurous of the flavors but hardly compares with the winners from contests in other countries: Mastana Mango, Walkie Talkie Chicken (that’s chicken feet), Caesar Salad, Chilli & Chocolate, Late Night Kebob, and Cajun Squirrel.

Pepsi (PEP), which owns Lays, already sells more salty snacks than any other company in the world. It owns Doritos, Cheetos, Sun Chips, Stacy’s, Grandma’s, and Rold Gold pretzels, as well as Fritos and many other brands. That’s a $22 billion market, and Frito-Lay is a $13 billion business.

Weber-Mendham, who has three children, will receive $1 million in prize money or 1 percent of her chips’ net sales for 2013, whichever is more. “I’m from the Midwest, so I’m boringly practical. We’ll use the money for braces and college,” she says. “We are going to take a trip to Mexico when school’s out. And my kids would like a robot to cook and clean for them.”

Berfield is a writer for Bloomberg Businessweek in New York. Follow her on Twitter @susanberfield.

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