Why not? potato chips in a box edition


World Optimization

In reviewing my year I came across these photos of a box of potato chips I took in January on a plane. I took them because it seemed so much better to me than chips in a bag:

The corners of the box opened out, so that it was like a bowl.

As usual, I wonder, is it actually better or does it just seem so to me? If it is better, why aren’t most chips sold this way?

Ways it seems better to me:

  • you don’t get oil from the bag all over your hand
  • you can see what you are picking up, which is somehow pleasing
  • and which also allows more delicate grasping, rather than just thrusting your hand into the food, which seems better for sharing
  • it has a natural surface to sit on, which is more pleasing than a bag that sits on its side
  • it would fit neatly in a drawer, instead of taking up a large shapeless space (this is getting minor, but I do imagine it affecting what I would in fact want to buy)

Further evidence that this is good is that people often pour chips into bowls.

A downside is that it seems to involve more packaging, though I’m not sure how much the environmental impacts of cardboard and normal chip packaging compare. Other foods regularly involve cardboard boxes, along with numerous layers of other packign material, so it would be surprising if that was prohibitively costly. I think the foil-like layer is needed to avoid air getting in and making the chips stale (chips are actually packaged with nitrogen to keep fresh, apparently).

There could easily be costs I don’t know about. For instance, apparently normal chip packaging involves carefully chosen layers of polymer for things like repelling moisture and avoiding package breakage. And some materials will change the taste of ingredients. I also wonder if you could do a similar thing with creative use of entirely normal chip packaging, though there is less of an existence proof there. I’m imagining something like this:


1 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 5:45 PM
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I really like the thought behind the post! But, your idea seems kind of... overengineered. For one, an important requirement for the packaging is that it should be easy to hold in your hand (e.g. eating in a car/on a couch/anywhere that you can't actually put it on a table).

Additionally, let's say there are two varieties of chips' sizes: small and large. Small ones are small and cheap, so there's no better way to package them than throw some in a bag, and it'd be too costly to package them in a more sophisticated way.

Large ones could have more complex packaging, but there's the problem of closing the bag when there's still some leftovers. In case of the usual bag, it's as easy as folding the top - you get reasonable airtightness etc. But in case of a box, you'd have to make some closing mechanism, or shove it back in the bag (as in your pictures), which seems... complicated.

There are two ideas here. First are Pringles - just put them in a tube. Closing is not a problem, and it has the additional advantage of not crumbling them to pieces (which I'd say should be THE feature of boxes). Second idea is a bag that can be opened vertically as well as horizontally (Lay's Stix implemented this some time ago, although I'm not sure about the US version). Then, you can have best of two worlds - easy to hold/easy to close (open on top) OR easy to access/share (open on the side).