Are Healthy Potato Chips Really Better For You?
Gourmet potato chips brand themselves as healthier than pedestrian ones like Lays, Ruffles, etc. But is there a difference?
The Language of Food did an interesting comparative study:
Josh and I looked at 12 bags of potato chips, 6 more expensive (Boulder, Dirty, Kettle Brand, Popchips, Terra, Season’s, averaging 68 cents per ounce) and 6 less expensive (Hawaiian, Herr’s, Lays, Tim’s, Utz, and Wise, averaging 40 cents per ounce). We coded up all the advertising text from the back of the chips and then examined how the words differed between the two classes of chips.
It turns out there was no difference in health values between the two groups of chips, but they marketed themselves very differently.
What factors characterized expensive chips? You may be surprised to learn that potato chips are a health food; almost all chips (expensive or not) emphasized the healthiness of their products by using phrases like “low fat”, “healthier”, “no cholesterol”, or “lowest sodium level”. But these health-related claims occur on expensive chips 6 times as often as on inexpensive chips (6 times per bag versus once per bag). This difference in health language is not, as far as we can tell, due to actual differences in the chips.
Healthy Brands Label Their Food Differently
I think a lot of gourmet potato chips advertise themselves on the quality of their ingredients. Only potatoes, oil, salt, without the funny looking ingredients you’re more likely to find in the cheap chips.
That might be a slight advantage, but not enough to categorize the two foods differently.