Monday, December 14, 2009

Yin, Yang and Lay's Blueberry Potato Chips

So the Chinese are really into the whole yin and yang business. According to the philosophy, "yin and yang are complementary opposites within a greater whole." This applies to food as well--yang foods are believed to increase the body's heat and yin foods are thought to decrease it. In order to keep the body in balance, Chinese people believe that you must eat both yin and yang foods. Cantonese people claim that many conditions can be cured through food therapy--for example if you have dry skin, chapped lips and nose bleeds, you may have been eating too many yang foods (such as deep fried foods and chili pepper) and need to balance yourself out with a few yin treats (a lot of melon-y and water-y fruits and veg).

Some yang foods: beef, coffee, chocolate, garlic, peanuts, whiskey, wine, ham, cheese, butter
Some yin foods: apples, bananas, broccoli, cucumbers, grapes, honey, oranges, pineapple, strawberries

What does this have to do with these godawful potato chips, you ask? Well apparently some dude at Lay's was checking out a list of yin and yang foods and realized that they already had yang on lockdown, because basically anything fried or unhealthy ends up on that list. But they hadn't even begun to tap the yin market, which Chinese people believe they should be filling their faces with half the time.

Solution? Make some yin potato chips. Lay's 'Natural and Cool' line brings us flavors like blueberry, lime, cherry tomato, cucumber and (gag) kiwi. This allows consumers to believe they are getting their Chinese medicine recommended daily dose of yin foods, while still stuffing themselves with suspiciously yang-like calories.

The ad above shows a bunch of Chinese nature-lovers so desperate for yin foods that they are eating flower bouquets in addition to standard fruits and vegetables. Luckily for them Stephanie Sun shows up and blatantly suggests that they can dump the veg and just eat potato chips instead! Sort of reminiscent of that heady time in the 80's that Ronald Reagan and the USDA tried to classify ketchup as a vegetable in American school lunches.

The marketing company that masterminded this brilliant spot had this to say about it:

"The creative uses eating real natural foods to demonstrate that natural and cool chips are inspired by natural flavours: lime, cherry tomato and cucumber. The wacky execution was used to grab the attention of our target and instill the message that natural and cool chips are nature-lovers' favourite chips," Jennifer Chern, senior account director for BBDO Shanghai said.

So how do the chips taste, you ask? When you open the can you get a serious bang of blueberry--it smells like a cross between baking blueberry muffins and the blueberry Lipsmackers I had when I was 12. When you bite into one it tastes like artificial blueberry and sort of sweet, but then it recedes into an entirely savory, salty taste. Like most snack foods I have had in China thus far, I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to determine if what I was eating was disgusting or not, and then finally deciding they are halfway through the package. Not to say I won't finish them, but I doubt that it's going to be balancing my yin and yang anytime soon.


  1. Great post! The video is super creepy - especially the chewing sounds.

  2. Interesting take on yin and yang. When I first learned about those concepts it grated on me that yin was supposed to be "dark, watery, unfocused, feminine", yang- " bright, dry, directed, masculine,". That's from when I was with the macrobiotic people who felt that the americans had either too much extreme yin-sugar, alcohol,drugs, or too yang- meat,salt,fish,eggs- and that we needed to be in the middle with vegetables and rice.
    We were to add a wee bit of yang with pickles and a tiny bit of fish or pressure cooked beans.

  3. I had to admit the yin foods and cause bloat and the yang foods can expell it. After a while it irked me that Japanese people were teaching us that hair growing on our arms meant that we were totally toxic from too much yang.

    Have you seen the book "Tokyo Vice" by Jake Adelstein? He reveals what it's like to work in a host club and that Japanese women like to shave their faces to keep the skin smooth.