Food Chemists Dive Into Science Behind Nottingham-based Herr’s Philly-Flavored Potato Chips

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Closeup image of a young woman picking and eating potato chips at home
Image via iStock.

Nottingham’s Herr’s is looking for a Philadelphia-flavored crisp. This year’s “Flavored by Philly” challenge is offering a $15,000 cash prize to anyone who can brainstorm a flavor that highlights a small, local business, writes Sandy Hingston for Philadelphia Magazine.  

Last year, Ryan Reigel took $10,000 home in cash prize for coming up with the ingenious Philly-inspired flavor of long-hots and provolone (a take on the roast pork sandwich.) But how would one imitate such a flavor in chip form? Two flavor chemists to provided their expertise.  

Cathianne Leonardio, the President of the Society of Flavor Chemists and staff flavorist for the Coca-Cola company said that nostalgia is the goal.  

“You want the broadest, most pleasing taste — and an experience that sticks in the memory,” said Leonardio.

McCormick & Co. Principal chemist and past president of the Society of Flavor Chemists Sam Tharpe agreed. He described learning the language of flavor as “figuring out nature’s puzzle.”  

Part of being a flavor chemist is knowing what works and what doesn’t. Leonardio said that it’s hard to incorporate chocolate flavor into things that don’t contain fat. While some yogurt has fat, the acid in it makes the chocolate flavor harder to translate.  

And there are some flavors that contain unstable molecules and might not be long-lasting. Coffee, tea, and cheese are all examples. But the first step when creating a funky flavor such as the provolone and long hots blend is to try it yourself to get an idea of what you’re trying to emulate. 

“You break the flavor down into pieces. And then you have to get the flavor in there. In this case, it’s a chip, so you’ll want a seasoning blend,” said Tharpe.  

But most importantly, it all comes down to chemistry and how different flavors and acids interact, while also keeping the audience in mind. 

“We’re making magical moments by engaging with the senses of other people. Chemistry and biology are social!” said Leonardio.

Read more about flavor chemistry in Philadelphia Magazine.  

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