Hostess Potato Chips

Hostess Potato Chips

Hostess Potato Chips was the leading potato chip brand in Canada for many years. They fended off any attempt to displace them from their commanding position, and retained their #1 position into the 1980s, even in the face of increased competition from US-based companies entering the Canadian market. They eventually suffered serious brand erosion in the early 1990s with the introduction of various "upscale" brands such as Kettle Chips and Miss Vickie's. In 1996 the brand was replaced by Lay's in a major re-branding exercise. Today, the Hostess brand is used only on a small number of products.

Early history

Hostess was first formed in 1935 when Edward Snyder began cooking chips on his mother's kitchen stove in Beaverdale, outside Cambridge, Ontario. Potato chips remained a fairly small part of the snack food market until the 1950s, when snack foods in general became much more widely available. In 1955 Snyder sold his company to E.W. Vanstone, who expanded the company greatly before selling his interest to General Foods in 1959. [ [ Frito-Lay web site] , history section, available through frames only]

Hostess grew to become the #1 brand through this period and into the 1980s. Their powerful distribution channels made competing on price difficult, and shelf space for competing products was difficult to find, notably in smaller stores such as gas stations. The brand also gained a strong reputation for quality at the expense of other brands. Their packaging was instantly recognisable, featuring simple graphics and colour schemes. For much of the brand's history, only three flavours were sold; Regular in a blue package, Salt and Vinegar in yellow, and BBQ in deep red. The power of the brand was such that competitors generally used the same colours on their packaging as well, creating a standard of sorts.

In the mid-1970s Hostess decided to expand their lineup and introduced three new flavours, Orange, Cherry and Grape. The attempt was a dismal failure, and the products disappeared from stores only a few months later. The products were so poorly received they remain a topic of derision to this day. Newer introductions followed, starting with the popular Sour Cream and Onion shortly after the fruit flavours disappeared. This was a huge success, and was followed by a series of other now-common flavours such as Dill Pickle and Ketchup.

In the 1980s, the chips had new mascots known as the Munchies, that were used for advertisements as well as appearing on the chip packaging. The Munchies were three friendly goblin-type creatures coloured red, orange, and yellow.

Frito Lay

The introduction of corn chips to the market led to a partnership between Hostess and Frito Lay (owned by PepsiCo) in 1987, bringing Doritos to Canada for the first time. This was followed by the introduction of other Frito Lay brands, including Ruffles, Tostitos and Cheetos. Oddly Lay's, Frito Lay's major US chip brand, was already being licensed for Canadian manufacture by another company. Hostess remained the major chip brand even after the arrangement. In 1992 Frito Lay purchased General Foods' interest in the joint company, then known as Hostess Frito Lay.

Through the 1990s a number of "boutique" brands introduced a wide variety of new chip flavours, a pattern that Hostess did not follow. Their brand value was enormously eroded, and they became known as a low-end brand in the same fashion that former Hostess competitors found themselves pushed into for many years. They retained their #1 position, but slipped in sales terms to holding about 10% of the market by the mid-1990s.

Hostess no more

With the brand popularity falling, in 1996 it was decided to re-brand the product as Lay's. This presented no small amount of difficulty; the product was already on sale in Canada via a third party, and was considered even "lower end" than Hostess. An aggressive advertising campaign by BBDO Canada featuring famous hockey players such as Mark Messier and Eric Lindros launched the "new" brand in 1997, and within eighteen months Lay's selling twice as much product as it had been with the Hostess name. [ [ Lay's Potato Chips] ] Hostess has largely disappeared, and recently the company dropped "Hostess" from its name, becoming Frito Lay Canada.

In order to maintain its trademark protection on the Hostess brand, Frito Lay continues to sell Hostess-branded chips in some lower-end grocery stores, such as Food Basics and Price Chopper, albeit limited to its early 1990s lineup of flavours.


"Cause when you got the munchies, nothing else will do!" [ [ In The 80s - Favorite Commercials From Television and Radio in the Eighties, Products Beginning with H ] ] [ [ Logo Design by VivaLogo / Logo Library / List of advertising slogans ] ]


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