Karen Weber-Mendham of Land O’ Lakes never dreamed a bag of Frito Lay chips would be the beginning of an exciting nation-wide tour in addition to possibly landing her $1 million dollars richer.
It all started last summer when Karen’s 13-year-old son Davey decided to have a snack and reached for a bag of chips. But it wasn’t what was inside the package that garnered his attention. He was more enamored with a contest announcement printed on the back of the bag. That promotion invited Frito Lay consumers to submit suggestions for new potato chip flavors. “Davey pestered me and pestered me to enter his favorite flavor, which was pot roast,” said Karen. “He was inspired to enter that because his grandmother really makes good pot roast which he loves.”
But contest rules prohibited the use of the word “pot” in the contest so Karen decided to enter a flavor she knew her entire family enjoyed-cheesy garlic bread. “Every time we go out for pizza, we always get a serving of cheesy garlic bread as an appetizer,”” said Karen. “We all just gobble it up, so I thought that would make a great chip flavor and submitted it to Frito Lay.”
There were 3.8 million other Frito Lay consumers who also entered suggestions, but Karen’s was one of the top three and put her in the running for a million dollar prize. Since that time, Frito Lay has been promoting the contest heavily through television commercials and social media. In fact, Karen has been lucky enough to be part of that promotion. Already the company has paid her $50,000 as one of the top winners.
Another exciting aspect of the contest has been a trip Karen and the other two contestants made to Plano, Texas, to tour the Frito Lay facility and sample her new chip flavor. “First they made the most incredible cheesy garlic bread and gave us a sample of that,” she said. “Then they let us try the chip they came up with. It’s really good.”
She also traveled to New York City on Feb. 12 and opened the New York Stock Exchange with celebrity chef and restaurateur Michael Symon and actress Eva Longoria. In addition, she got to be an extra in a commercial the company produced to promote the contest which was filmed in Los Angeles, Calif. “That was really something,” she said. “I’m kind of short so you can’t really see me in the commercial, but it was amazing to watch it being produced. We even got professional make-up artists and everything.”
The contest is being promoted through social media and it will be up to consumers to determine the winner. Besides Karen’s Cheesy Garlic Bread flavor, there is also a Chicken and Waffle flavor chip submitted by Christina Abu-Judom of Phoenix, Ariz., and a Sriracha flavor (which is a type of hot sauce) submitted by Tyler Raineri from Lake Zurich, Ill. All the flavors of these new chips are now in local markets. The contest closes May 4 and voters can submit three votes a day in a number of ways. They can vote on the Frito Lay Facebook page; via Twitter by using #SaveGarlicBread; or by texting “VOTE” to 24477 (CHIPS). The winning flavor will be revealed this May.
Of course, this is a very exciting time for the entire Mendham family which includes Karen’s husband Phil, in addition to two other children, Kate, 15, and Joe, 11. Phil and his family have run Sunrise Lodge Resort in Land O’Lakes on Lac Vieux Desert, for more than 40 years. But the entire town of Land O’Lakes is pretty enthused about the promotion, too. “One of the producers of the commercial told me that everyone in my home town is going to know me after all this is over and I just laughed,” said Karen. “Everyone up here already knows me. You know how it is in a small town, but the whole community is so excited for our entire family and that is really great.”
Karen credits local potato growers for her loyalty to always having Frito Lay chips in her pantry. “I’m good friends with Tunie Sowinski and her family grows potatoes up in this area that are made into Frito Lay chips,” she said. “That’s the only brand I buy.”
And that loyalty is paying off for this children’s librarian who is faithfully voting, along with all her family and friends. And how will she be spending her loot if her chip flavor takes first place? “Well, with three kids there’s always something and we want to save for their college educations,” she said. “But I’m definitely going to be buying some new shoes. I’m always excited when I can afford a new pair.”
The recipe for this week was taken from the Frito Lay website, fritolay.com, and used with permission.
Roasted Red Bell Pepper Kalamata Basil Dip
8 oz. cream cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup diced white onion
1/4 cup diced roasted red bell pepper
2 Tbs. chopped Kalamata olives
2 Tbs. chopped fresh basil
11/2 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
Allow the cream cheese to soften to room temperature. Mix the cream cheese, sour cream, onions, lemon juice, salt and pepper thoroughly until it reaches a smooth consistency. Fold in the red bell peppers, Kalamata olives and basil. Place the dip in a ceramic bowl, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve with Baked! Lay’s Original Potato Crisps.