The unplanned birth of a surprising new product

The unplanned birth of a surprising new product

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Have you seen it? In the pace at which we live our lives, it’s possible you missed it. I was at the drugstore recently and I saw it on the side of a box. It took a moment to process. How often does a product surprise you?

It had the potential to be a “you got your chocolate in my peanut butter” moment. When I was younger, my older brother, or No. 1 son as he’s been described on these pages for decades, used to mix all kinds of foods. Perhaps it was a prelude to him becoming a scientist. He’d combine foods that would defy even the current cooking shows. To his credit, he’d choke down even the ones that were spectacular failures because he didn’t want to waste food, and because who knew at what point a displeasing food might become an acquired taste? After all, how many people remember their first sip of beer? Did it tickle their taste buds or did they want to find water or a soda to wash it down?

So, back at the drugstore, I scratched my unshaven chin — I was buying razors to remedy that problem — when the image on the side of a box diverted my attention from important thoughts: How much longer would this take? Would I meet my deadlines? Was I supposed to wash some mission-critical clothing last night for some must-win game today?

As I looked at that image, I could imagine the moment Igor came up with the idea. There he was at a barbecue. With his acquired-taste beer a few inches from his left hip, he surveyed the food on his overloaded plate. He had a thick cheeseburger on a sesame seed bun, half sour pickles, an enormous mound of sauteed onions and mushrooms, coleslaw, and several Pringles sitting next to his burger. Igor works for Pringles and he won’t attend any picnic without bringing his favorite curved chip. The burger was on its way to his mouth when he realized he was missing something. He stood up to kiss his sister-in-law, maneuvered around his nephew who was bouncing a pink ball against the steps, and he and his burger arrived safely at the condiment table. On Igor’s way back to his beer, the pink ball rolled underfoot, causing him to turn his ankle and mix up the contents of the plate.

He hobbled to his spot and surveyed the damage to his food. His ankle could wait. Igor, like my brother, pressed on. He sighed at his precious Pringles. They were broken into tiny pieces, which was no fault of the distinctive packaging, and they looked like they’d been through a battle. They were covered in ketchup. Did he dare throw out the Pringles, he wondered, as he sipped his acquired-taste beer?

No, his loyalty to a product that paid for his mortgage and his three Jeeps ran too deep to toss even a single chip. Igor found the small part of a chip not smothered in ketchup and brought it to his mouth. Aware that every eye was on him, he nodded slowly, as if the taste was something extraordinary.

“Well,” his brother said, trying to be helpful, “why not, right? We put ketchup on French fries, which are also made from potatoes, right?”

Was it a weakness or a strength on Igor’s part that made him insist this was an inevitable combination that would become a must-have item for July Fourth barbecues? I suppose it’s up to us to decide whether ketchup-flavored potato chips are the next peanut butter cup.

If they are, maybe Pringles can edit a Seinfeld clip where George Costanza double-dips his chip into a bowl of ketchup?