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Lay's New Potato Chip Flavor Tastes Like ... Cappuccino

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LAYS CHIPS
Pepsico product Lays potato chips on display at a grocery store in Palo Alto, Calif., Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2010. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma) | ASSOCIATED PRESS

NEW YORK, N.Y. - American palates have changed considerably over the years, but is the country ready for cappuccino-flavoured Lay's?

Frito-Lay, the snack division of PepsiCo Inc., will announce on Wednesday the coffee-flavoured chips as one of the four finalists for its second annual "Do Us a Flavor" contest in the U.S., which gives people a chance to create a new potato chip that is sold nationally and win $1 million. The other three finalists are Cheddar Bacon Mac & Cheese, Mango Salsa and Wasabi Ginger.

Frito-Lay says the four flavours are expected to start hitting shelves in late July. People will then be able to vote online for their favourite through Oct. 18.

The promotional stunt is intended to boost customer engagement online and send fans to stores in search of the flavours.

But it also reflects how Frito-Lay is trying to keep up with changing tastes, with its ever-evolving lineup of potato chips now including several Hispanic flavours. Later this month, it also plans to roll out Lay's Stax chips in a Korean barbecue flavour and Lay's Stax in Thai Sweet Chili flavour.

That would make them the first Asian flavours of Lay's chips sold nationally in the U.S., not counting the flavours it has introduced as part of the "Do Us a Flavor" contest. Last year, Cheesy Garlic Bread beat out Chicken & Waffles and Sriracha, a sauce commonly used in Thai cuisine.

"I can't imagine us 10 years ago doing a wasabi ginger flavour," said Ram Krishnan, Frito-Lay's senior vice-president of brand marketing.

Despite the growing popularity of ethnic flavours, the top four Lay's flavours remain the same: Original, Barbecue, Cheddar & Sour Cream and Sour Cream & Onion.

Frito-Lay notes that its cappuccino flavour doesn't contain any actual coffee or caffeine. The company last year discontinued a variety of Cracker Jack that contained caffeine after the Food and Drug Administration said it was concerned about the proliferation of caffeinated food and drinks. Frito-Lay says it halted production because of weak demand, rather than regulatory concerns.

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Follow Candice Choi at www.twitter.com/candicechoi