Welcome to World Cup Gravy Train, a new feature in which we’ll be examining those commercial products and services that use the planet’s biggest football competition to generate some extra income – officially or otherwise.
And we start by looking at Walkers, the crisp manufacturers who are veterans at leaning on football to promote its products. When you choose Gary Lineker as the face of your advertising campaigns for 15 years, your connection with the beautiful game is bound to be considerable and therefore it's hardly surprising that they've turned to football with the World Cup only a month away.
The Walkers Flavour Cup is the natural successor to their Do Us a Flavour promotion of 2008 and 2009 where people were asked to vote for their favourite from a range of new (and only briefly available) flavours.
This new promotion uses the same premise by offering 15 crisp flavours with an international theme, some of which are more credible than others. At the plausible end of the scale you’ll find Argentinean Flame Grilled Steak and Japanese Teriyaki Chicken, while the other end offers up American Cheeseburger and Australian BBQ Kangaroo. All this from the people that brought you Cajun Squirrel flavour... go figure.
In the name of research and truthful journalism, I’ve sampled some of Walkers’ new offerings for myself and the results are at best varied. Argentinean Flame Grilled Steak was tasty enough in a Beef and Onion kind of way while Brazilian Salsa tasted a bit like Prawn Cocktail with a hint of chilli powder. As for French Garlic Baguette, I was hard pushed to detect any garlic flavour in it.
In all honesty though, it must be devilishly difficult to create new and peculiar crisp flavours. If you don’t get it right, you lay yourself open to all kinds of criticism as was shown during the Do Us a Flavour campaign. Writing in The Guardian last year, Charlie Brooker likened the Chilli and Chocolate flavour to “excreted battery acid” and equated the experience of eating their Fish and Chips flavoured crisps to “kissing someone who's just eaten a plateful of scampi.”
This new range of flavours, however, has some intriguing offerings such as Dutch Edam Cheese and Italian Spaghetti Bolognese while the inclusion of Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding, Welsh Rarebit, Irish Stew and Scottish Haggis indicates a need to cater for the home market as well as perhaps a desperation to pad out the choice on offer.
And while we’re on the subject, you have to say Walker’s have missed a trick with all this international flavouring. Where was the Thai Curry flavour? Where was the New Zealand Lamb flavour? Where was the North Korean... er... Dog... er... flavour? Ahem... yes, well, you get the picture.
All in all, the Walkers Flavour Cup is a bit of fun which has been cleverly designed to work off the back of the real World Cup without actually mentioning its name. By using some pretty packaging and even a TV advertising campaign featuring Brer Lineker and Stuart Hall (who has been scandalously overlooked by ad executives up to now), they’ve created a range of crisps that you’ll be highly tempted to snap up.
Quite what your thoughts are on the crisps themselves remains to be seen, but on that point we’d like you to tell us by leaving a comment on any of the flavours you’ve tried.
Did you become a bit partial to the South African Sweet Chutney? Did you rush with great haste to the toilet after trying the German Bratwurst Sausage? Leave us a comment and tell us your views. These things matter, you know...