Food & Drink

Spicy Chip Brands Are Expanding Their Product Offerings With Surprising New Items

Anyone want Hot Cheetos mac 'n cheese or a Takis scooter?

spicy chips chip hot cheeto takis brand
Emily Carpenter/Thrillist

It’s incredible how a simple bag of chips can transform into an entirely new culinary phenomenon. A bag of Fritos, those curly cornmeal chips that were created in 1932, easily evolve into a walking taco with the addition of beans, melty cheese, salsa, and some jalapenos. Lays potato chips are regularly crushed and used as a crunchy topping for casseroles or an added textural element in sandwiches. These days, it’s unsurprising to find chicken tenders breaded with Flamin’ Hot Cheetos or elotes sprinkled with Takis dust. 

Chips, whether eaten straight out of the bag or added to an entirely new meal, are satisfying in their grease and comfort, so it comes as no surprise that major chip brands are trying to capitalize on our infatuation with the fried snacks and create something new and enticing, yet familiar. And we’re eating it up.

Earlier this year, Cheetos rolled out Hot Cheetos and cheddar-flavored popcorn. There is a growing trend of consumers reaching for healthier options, but what if they didn’t have to necessarily give up all their favorites? The Cheetos popcorn felt like a happy medium: less caloric than the chips yet filled with that signature, finger-dusting cheese flavor. 

Then, this past month, Cheetos dropped another new item: Cheetos Mac ‘n Cheese. “We’ve seen incredible culinary creativity from our Cheetos fans through the years -- taking our product and infusing it into recipes and dishes -- including mac and cheese,”  Rachel Ferdinando, the SVP and chief marketing officer of Frito-Lay North America, told me via email. “Now, coupled with the fact that at-home meal consumption is on the rise and that 70% of Cheetos buyers also buy mac and cheese, we’re borrowing that inspiration for our latest innovation.” 

Cheetos has always pushed the envelope about what a food brand could be, not relegating itself to merely sell bag after bag of spicy snacks. Sprinkles Cupcakes released a limited offer on Hot Cheeto-flavored cupcakes in 2018 and 2019, complete with white cheddar frosting and a Cheeto chips core. The cheetah-fronted brand has also elbowed its way into other facets of our lives. Just last year, Cheetos hosted a “Flamin’ Haute” fashion show in New York City on the eve of fashion week, complete with Cheeto-rimmed cocktails and gaudy skirts composed of chip bags. Prior to the fashion show, Cheetos partnered with Forever 21 to release a line of chip-themed bodysuits, T-shirts, and make-up. 

But Cheetos aren’t the only spicy chip brand making these types of moves. Going toe-to-toe with Chester the cheetah is Takis -- the fiery chip brand known for it’s zesty lime flavor and rolled chips. Takis partnered up with Totino’s and released a Takis-dusted mini snack bite stuffed with gooey cheese earlier this summer. “We wanted to make a spicy snack since we didn’t see a lot of spicy options in the frozen aisle,” Jenny Huang, associate brand manager for Totino’s, explained via email. “We were already big fans of Takis chips and saw a ton of buzz and love for Takis Fuego and its signature chili lime flavor. So why not combine two snacks that people love -- Totino’s pizza rolls and Takis?” 

Similarly to Cheetos, Takis has also not limited itself to edible products. This summer, Razor scooter released a series of scooters created with “culturally influential brands” according to the words of Razor president, Jim Wagner. Takis was among one of these brands; the scooter Razor came up with is a flashy purple number with yellow wheels reminiscent of a bag of Takis. You can now sport your love of a spicy bag of chips while cruising down the street.

As chip brands find new ways to infiltrate our pantries -- as well as closets and garages -- one has to wonder what products will spring up next, and when other chip brands will get as involved. Where are the pringles-flavored soups, or Lays frozen casseroles? Will there ever be a nail polish line inspired by Doritos’ many iterations? Can we expect a Funyun-shaped pool toy for next summer?

When it comes to Cheetos, “we are constantly innovating to meet consumers’ evolving palates,” Ferdinando said. “We will keep you posted!” As for the other brands, we’ll just have to wait with bated breath to see what’s cooked up in the future.