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How Much Air are You Actually Paying for in Your Bag of Chips?

December 4, 2014

As disappointing as it is to open a bag of your favorite chips and find that there’s more air in it than the actual snack, it’s a necessary reality we have to deal with. Manufacturers intentionally (and legally) fill each bag with air to keep the chips fresh and minimize crushing in the course of shipping and handling the product. Still, are they using this as an excuse to deceive us with a bigger-looking bag of chips? How much of it though is just sad filler air?

How-Much-Air-is-in-Your-Bag-of-Chips

For this experiment, we’re comparing four common potato chip brands in the Philippines: Lay’s, Kettle, Oishi, and Jack n’ Jill. To find out how much of each brand is chips and how much is air, we get the ratio of the weight of the chips to the volume of the bag:

Ratio of chips to volume of bag = weight/volume

We compute for the volume of each sealed bag of chips through the water displacement method, since it’s an irregularly shaped object. (I hope I’m making my 3rd grade science teacher proud.)

All of this, of course, under the following assumptions:

  1. The amount of air inside each bag of chips of the same brand does not vary; i.e., two bags of Lay’s contains equal amounts of air; and
  2. Elevation is not a factor; i.e., you know how there’s more air pressure in a bag of chips in a flying aircraft than one in a non-elevated location?

Now that we have both the weight and volume for each brand, we can get the ratios:

Lay’s Kettle Oishi Jack n’ Jill
Weight 184.2g 142g 60g 60g
Volume 8,706.45cm3 7,192.28cm3 659.75cm3 518.37cm3
Ratio 2.12% 1.97% 9.09% 11.57%

How-Much-Air-is-in-Your-Bag-of-Chips2

This means that for every bag of Lay’s, you get a little over 2% of chips, almost 2% in a bag of Kettle, 9% in Oishi, and over 11% in Jack n’ Jill. Jack n’ Jill, with the highest percentage of chips content, and not taking into account flavor and quality of the product, gives us the most value for our money.

This should also tell us how much power manufacturers have over our perception. Of course, they could make the size of each bag smaller, a little tighter in proportion to the amount of chips inside, so it’s less deceptive for customers. But with the results of the experiment, why don’t they?

What do you think of the results of the experiment? Let us know in the comments section.

Addi dela Cruz Addi dela Cruz

Addi writes nonfiction that reads like fiction and fiction that isn't meant for children. He lives for breakfasts, getting new stamps on his passport, and perfecting his yoga tree pose. In between episodes of MasterChef and Hannibal, he dreams of owning a café that would serve the best hot chocolate in the South and have 12 tables at most.

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5 comments in this post SHOW

5 responses to “How Much Air are You Actually Paying for in Your Bag of Chips?”

  1. Johnny Wu says:

    I think it’s not volume that you should be looking for but the weight of the chips compared to the weight of the entire bag. Because companies don’t have any claims on volume.

    • Addi dela Cruz says:

      Hi Johnny, you have a point! But since for this experiment, we’re looking at the size of the bag vs. the amount of chips inside, we took into account the volume. When we shop for chips, we first notice the appearance; i.e., size, instead of feeling for the weight, right?

      • Johnny Wu says:

        yes that’s true. what I meant to say was that comparing weight would be more accurate. Or, the idea the Sean proposed above. 🙂

  2. Sean 20 says:

    I think there are points for improvement in the methodology used here. Well for one the chips themselves have different densities. A bloated bag with high density chips could have the same mass% as a not so bloated bag with medium density chips. Second, the shape of the chips themselves may lead to inefficient packing and would lead to air pockets in between. One good example for this would be lays and lays stax. Due to the ordered arrangement of the latter, it would result in a significant difference in the mass %. Basically what I’m saying here is that it might be better to determine the “excess volume due to air” rather than the mass. What I propose is to measure the volume of the packed chips as-is, puncture a small hole and let out as much air as you could without breaking the chips, seal the hole, then remeasure the volume. Then you could determine which brand puffs in as much air just for the sake of perception :)!

    Apologies for the long post, just a nerdy guy who loves your site :))

  3. Marty Tuazon says:

    Imported ones are filled with nitrogen, plus they are toasted before frying – – hence they have a different “crisp” & “crunch” than our local favorites… closest to come to that crispiness is Farmer Johns by Leslies

    http://mentalfloss.com/article/51993/why-are-potato-chip-bags-always-half-empty

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