The Mystery Of The Empty Chip Bags

Hey, Tostitos, where exactly did all of my chips go?

During a recent rousing family game of Settlers of Catan: Cities and Knights, my brother-in-law brought out a bag of Tostitos Hint of Lime chips. I'd never tasted them before, fearing the artificial lime flavor that had made Diet Coke with Lime such a disappointment—but in snacky desperation, I grabbed a chip and was immediately hooked on its puckeringly salty flavor.

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That's why I placed an Instacart order for Tostitos Hint of Lime in advance of my Super Bowl celebrations. (And by "celebrations," I mean my husband and me eating a huge tray of nachos while the dog stares longingly.) Unfortunately, when my bag of chips arrived from Fresh Thyme Market, it felt suspiciously light. Did the delivery person pop open the bag and sneak a few? Nope, the bag was sealed. Yet it was clear, even peering through the little window on the front of the package, that there just weren't that many chips in there.

Why chip bags often feel empty

You probably already know about the phenomenon of chips sinking to the bottom of the bag; most package labels even warn consumers that "some settling may occur." In fact, all that extra air fill is nitrogen that's pumped into the bag, allegedly to protect the chips during transit and keep them fresh. Even knowing all of this, though, the amount of Tostitos in the bag seemed ridiculous. I posted a photo to Instagram and my followers agreed: The bag looked too empty.

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So I put on my lab coat and whipped out my food scale, which any important food writer should own for moments such as these. The Tostitos label indicated that the bag contained 11 ounces' worth of product. My bag? Only 6.4 ounces, or a mere 58% of the amount I purchased.

Though I repeatedly reached out to Tostitos for an explanation, I never received a response. For research, I went to two other grocery stores and picked up a few more Hint of Lime bags, all of which weighed between 11.3 and 11.5 ounces and were packaged around roughly the same time as my original bag (as indicated by the expiration dates). I even used a second kitchen scale to double-check my work.

I also checked in with my brother-in-law, who had a few Tostitos bags on hand. Each of those, he confirmed, weighed about 11 ounces.

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Be thorough when shopping for snacks

It's unclear what circumstances led to my 6.4-oz. bag of chips. Maybe, as some Reddit users have suggested, my bag was caught between the end of one batch of chips on the production line and the start of the next. Or maybe a sensor monitoring the weight or fullness of each bag accidentally assigned some of the weight to an adjacent bag. Maybe the industrial chip-scooper (I'm only guessing this exists) dropped some chips on the factory floor. Whatever the reason for my defective purchase, it's good to see this isn't a widespread issue—but that doesn't mean a 58% full bag can't happen to you.

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If you're looking to indulge in homemade nachos or dip into some guac, make sure you're not getting ripped off. According to Frito-Lay's recent study of 2,000 snack fiends, 49% of respondents said that running out of snacks is worse than their team losing the Super Bowl (let's ask Eagles fans, shall we?). If you fall into that camp, be mindful as you pick up a bag of snacks at the grocery store; maybe pick up a few bags in a row, so you can make sure they're consistent.

As I sit here now surrounded by Hint of Lime chips—way more than I had ever planned to buy, my lips and fingers rough with seasoned salt even weeks after that delicious platter of Super Bowl nachos—I can't really be mad at where things netted out.

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