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The History of Lay’s Potato Chips

Herman W. Lay dropped out of college and decided to use his sales and business skills that he honed at an impressive childhood soda stand to become a snack manufacturer. He started selling his first chips in Nashville, Tennessee in 1932. Then in 1939, he bought an ailing snack food manufacturing company and renamed it the H.W. Lay & Company. Lay’s were soon sold throughout the South and the company became the first snack food producer to purchase TV ads. (In 1944, the company introduced Oscar the Happy Potato in a series of commercials.) In 1961, Lay’s made history again when the company merged with their longtime competitor the Frito Company to form Frito-Lay, Inc. and became the first national snack brand. The new conglomerate only offered products from four brands at first — Lay’s, Fritos, Ruffles, and Cheetos — but after they merged with the Pepsi-Cola Company in 1965, new products were developed and launched, including Doritos in 1967, Funyuns in 1969, and Munchos in 1971. Over time, the Lay’s line expanded, too. Today’s offerings include the traditional Lay’s chips in a variety of flavors as well as several other lines, including Lay's Kettle Cooked, Lay's Poppables, Wavy Lay's, Lay's Stax, and Lay's Layers. By the 1980s, Lay’s were being sold internationally. Interestingly, Lay’s chips are often sold under different names in other countries — for example, in England, Lay’s are called Walkers; in Egypt, Lays' are known by the name Chipsy; in Israel, they’re sold as Tapuchips; and in Mexico, they are branded as Sabritas. Lay’s potato chips have long been made using a protected variety of potatoes that are legally registered for exclusive use in Lay's products. In 2019, PepsiCo (the parent company of Lay’s) actually filed a lawsuit against farmers in India for growing the protected spuds, but eventually dropped it due to various external pressures. Today, Lay’s remains a beloved brand of chips in America and all across the world.

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