A snack staple for four decades, Pringles are now sold in over 140 countries, and the brand shows no sign of stopping. Everyone recognizes the curved shape and the distinctive taste of the popular flavors, but here are some things you may not know about the stacked potato chips.
1. The machine that makes the chips was developed by a fantasy author.
After serving as a combat engineer in the Korean War, Gene Wolfe studied engineering at the University of Houston and eventually landed a job at Proctor & Gamble, where he helped develop the machine that was used to make Pringles. Often credited as the inventor, Wolfe cleared things up in an interview with Lawrence Person: “I developed it. I did not invent it. That was done by a German gentleman whose name I've forgotten for years. I developed the machine that cooks them.” Wolfe would go on to write science fiction novels, one of which was voted the greatest fantasy of all-time behind The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.
2. Their Can’s Inventor Was Really Committed to the Cause.
When Proctor & Gamble need someone to create packaging for stacked potato chips back in 1966, chemist and food storage technician Fredric J. Baur dreamed up Pringles’ iconic tall cylinder. At some point in the 1980s, Baur told his family that he wanted to be buried in his invention. The family initially laughed off the remark, but when Baur died, his children stopped at a Walgreens on the way to the funeral home to honor their father’s wishes. “My siblings and I briefly debated what flavor to use,” Larry Baur told TIME. “But I said, 'Look, we need to use the original.’”
3. The brand was (maybe) named after a street.
Proctor & Gamble needed a name for their new product, and the company wanted it to start with the same letter as the company’s moniker. So according to legend (and the brand’s Facebook page), managers got a Cincinnati phone book and made a list of streets that started with “P.” Pringle Drive had a nice ring to it, and snacking history was made. Other sources have suggested that the name is a tribute to Mark Pringle, a man who co-patented a potato processing apparatus in 1942.
4. The name has been a bit longer in the past.
Pringles were once marketed as “Pringles Newfangled Potato Chips.” Ad materials from the 70s explain what made the snacks so newfangled: “Everything! They’re fresh and unbroken. They come crackling fresh and stay that way—even after they’re open! They fit in cupboards—without squashing!”
5. The mascot has a name.
Although he’s received a few cosmetic changes over the years, the mustachioed fellow on the can has been there since the brand got its start. So if you’ve been munching the snacks, it may be time to formally introduce yourself to Julius Pringle.
6. There is a chip hiding in the logo.
While some variations have a normal dot above the “i,” others have a dot in the shape of a chip, just like Julius Pringle’s mustache.
7. Pringles are a worldwide snack now.
Pringles are made in a factory in Tennessee, but the brand is very much global. Since acquiring Pringles in 2012 from Proctor & Gamble Co., parent company Kellogg’s has seen its snack sales grow from $4.8 billion in 2011 to $6.5 billion in the 2014 fiscal year. “Over two-thirds of Pringles are sold outside of North America today,” Chris Hood of Kellogg Europe told Food Business News, adding, “The growth has been consistently global.”
8. There have been over 100 flavors.
While there are about 29 flavors of the snack on shelves here in the United States (not counting special and limited edition runs), the rest of the world has tasted an entirely different spectrum of Pringles. A few that piqued our interest are Bangkok Grilled Chicken Wing, Blueberry & Hazelnut, Finger Lickin' Braised Pork, Mayo Potato, and Prawn Cocktail.
9. Brad Pitt once starred in a Pringles commercial.
Before he made it to the A list, Pitt paid some acting dues, including an early gig in a Pringles spot. Naturally, he appears shirtless in the ad.
10. The brand once claimed that Pringles were not potato chips.
Pringles are chips, right? According to their former parent company, maybe not. Because potato chips and similar products are subject to taxes in the UK, Proctor & Gamble argued in court that Pringles were “savory snacks” because of the other non-potato ingredients. In 2009 the Duties Tribunal ruled that, other ingredients notwithstanding, Pringles are “made from potato flour in the sense that one cannot say that it is not made from potato flour, and the proportion of potato flour is significant being over 40 percent.” After a series of reversals, the ruling was upheld and P&G owned the UK $160 million in duties.
11. They are a diverse tool in the kitchen.
Just like Corn Flakes can make a terrific breading for chicken, adventurous foodies have used Pringles to give their poultry an added crunch. The snacks can also used to coat Mahi Mahi and as a topping for rice.
12. You can cook a hot dog in a Pringles can.
If you’re in the mood for a hot dog but only have the power of the sun to cook it, as long as you can get your hands on a stick and a Pringles can, you’re in luck. Crafty improvisors have turned the cans into mini solar ovens, using the foil on the inside to cook skewered franks. Grab a secondcan, build a speaker, and you have yourself a Pringles party.