Childhood memories are an oasis for the mind in today’s challenging world, recalling nostalgic events or products brings us a brief moment of joy reflecting on those more innocent times. For me, BMX bike rides to the Becker’s convenience store after collecting bottles from the ditch is one of those happy recollections, as $2.00 in bottle deposit refund money was like winning the lottery. That bottle money was quickly put right back into the Becker’s cash register when I bought Wacky Packs, Dinosaur Eggs, Sour Chews and of course, Hostess Potato Chips.
The 1980’s gave us such great movies, music and junk food. Washing down some fresh foil bagged Hostess chips with Jolt Cola was an integral part of our teenage lives, and for many, Hostess was THE GREATEST potato chip in Canada. As our carefree childhood days slipped away, so did our Munchies, and in what would be a sly corporate takedown, Canada’s beloved Hostess Chips were killed by a well-known American corporation: Pepsi.
The epic Canadian story of Hostess Potato Chips stretches back to 1935 when Edward Snyder started making potato chips on his mother’s kitchen stove in Breslau, Ontario, near Kitchener. One Saturday he took a small supply to the Kitchener Market and was sold out by mid-morning. The potatoes were peeled by hand and salted from hand-shaken salt shakers. He wanted Snyder’s Potato Chips to be of the highest quality. He created foil bags in which to package the chips to retain their flavour and crispness. The public demand for Snyder’s Potato chips led Snyder to move a factory which he built on land he purchased that adjoined the Snyder farm. His entrepreneurial spirit and outstanding marketing ability led to his chips being sold across southern Ontario and in the city of Toronto. It wouldn’t be until 1955 that his chips went big when Mr. Snyder sold his Chip Company to E.W. Vanstone, who expanded it greatly before he then sold it to General Foods four years later.
Hostess Chips were the new brand, and they soon garnered a solid reputation for quality, using foil bags to maintain freshness, and the bags of Hostess chips were easily recognizable using simple colour coding for each flavour. Regular was a blue package, Salt and Vinegar yellow, HOT BBQ in red. These colours for chip flavours were so effective that other brands still continue to use these packaging colours to this day.
Hostess became the #1 potato chip in Canada and fought off US corporations that soon started entering the Canadian chip market. The genius of their marketing once again made waves when Hostess introduced “The Munchies” in 1981.
These were three cartoon chracters that represented the “hunger munchies” one gets for salty snacks. Widely successful, the Munchies became the brand image for Hostess, and were placed on their chip bags, except for Hickory Sticks, that opted for the wood-grain motif on their packaging.
Hostess was so popular, they created giveaways inside their bags of chips, including Rock Music stickers, film tie-ins, and Munchie Merchandise prizes. They were the top potato chip in Canada and the choice of almost every Canadian kid who bought some chips in the 1980s.
This irked the American companies that their brands could not compete with the formidable Hostess brand, leading to a plot to eliminate them, a Munchie Murder.
CHIP ON THEIR SHOULDER
The 1980s were the Golden Age of many things, including snack foods, and corn based snacks were rising in popularity. Fritos, Cheetos and Doritos all taking the stage. Hostess didn’t have any corn based snacks and decided to enter the market by entering into a partnership with Frito-Lay, who were owned by…..PEPSI.
In 1987 Hostess and Frito-Lay joined forces to introduce a corn based chip snack called Hostess “Taquitos” and they merged in 1988. The Pepsi owned Frito-Lay now started adding their own brands into the Canadian market, which included Ruffles, Cheetos, and Doritos. By 1992 Pepsi then bought out Hostess’ remaining interest from General Foods. This would spell doom and the eventually death of the beloved Canadian Hostess brand.
With Pepsi now owning Hostess, they replaced the Taquitos with their own brand, changing the name to “Zesty Doritos”. Yes, your Zesty Doritos are actually Hostess Taquitos.
With the introduction of other Pepsi owned chip brands such as Ruffles and “upscale brands” of chips such as Miss Vickie’s (another Canadian chip company bought out by Pepsi owned Frito-Lay in 1993) the Hostess brand was effectively destroyed by the very company that purchased it.
Pepsi made the decision to change the name of Hostess to “Lay’s” in 1996, using hockey players as spokespersons to rebrand the image of this new chip.
The Munchies were killed off, Hostess chips were quashed, and Pepsi now only keeps the Hostess name on Hickory Sticks.
Now more than ever I think we need to re-visit the things that make us happy and bring them back by any nostalgic means possible. If that means that the American Corporate Pepsi Machine re-introduces the once #1 Canadian brand Hostess Potato Chips for its 85th Anniversary, then let it be so. Because in the end, when you got the munchies, nothing else will do….
Andrew King, March 19th 2020