South Africans have adventurous taste in chips, compared to the rest of the world which errs on the cheesy side. Doritos, an American brand premised on inventive, spicy flavours, has thrived on local shelves since 2002.
 Sweet Chilli Pepper Doritos, 45g. R7.99, Pick n Pay. R8.49, Checkers.
Chips Dot ZA
South Africa’s diverse population is reflected in its chip isles. From childhood, imprinting on specific brands, textures and flavours establish a palate of preferences to inform a lifetime of cravings. As the country’s taste moves towards imitative, spicy flavours, we revisit the chip titans that inform our shared snacking experience.
FOOD / AESTHETICS / 31.01.23
Read time / 3 mins
Sweet Chilli Pepper Doritos, 45g. R7.99, Pick n Pay. R8.49, Checkers.
Salt and Vinegar Simba, 120g. R19.99, Pick n Pay. R17.99, Checkers.
A true South African original, Simba founder Leon Greyvensteyn is the son of Elizabeth Ann Greyvenstyn, the Ouma of Ouma Rusks. In 1955, Leon travelled to a German food fair where he met the American Herman Lay of Lay’s. Their friendship inspired Leon to launch Simba two years later.
With joyous packaging evoking the excitement of entering a toy shop, Flings are unlike anything you’ve ever tasted—literally. These indigenous “Original Flavour” maize snacks melt in your mouth like edible air, sampled here by Don Woo for the first time at 77. “Once my Simba’s up”, he says, “I’m gonna buy this.”
Original Flavour Flings, 150g. R19.99, Pick n Pay. R19.99, Checkers.
String of 5 Original Cheese NikNaks, 22g. R14.99, Pick n Pay. R13.99, Checkers.
An iconic party pack favourite, we’ll never know how many packets of NikNaks have been smuggled into foreign countries to desperate relatives. The unflattering shape is unrivalled for its crunch and flavour retention. If Original Cheese is the Madonna of flavours, Fruit Chutney is the Lady Gaga—both chart toppers in their own right.
Prawn Cocktail Chips, 125g. R25.99, Woolworths
Bougie chip lovers everywhere breathed a sigh of relief when the Woolworths Food Prawn Cocktail Seafood Flavoured Snack returned to shelves after a brief absence (likely caused by global supply chain strain). It’s based on a chip birthed in the United Kingdom in 1974. Skips, “light and melty” with a “prawn cocktail” flavour, though physically identical, are a sweeter take on the addictive flavour.
Salted Lay’s, 120g. R21.99, Pick n Pay. R21.99, Checkers. R21.99, Woolworths.
Regardless of South Africans’ spicy inclinations, Lay's confirmed that Salted is their top-selling flavour in 2020. It’s a tight race, they told Business Insider, with Caribbean Onion and Balsamic Vinegar and Thai Sweet Chilli not far behind.
Finger-staining good. When it comes to corn snacks, do you prefer a Tomato Big Korn Bite and a Barbecue Fritos, or a BBQ Big Korn Bite and Tomato Fritos? This heated debate is fiery enough to light a braai.
String of 5 Tomato and BBQ Big Korn Bites, 25g. R18.99, Pick n Pay. R15.99, Checkers.
Florescent nitrogen-padded packets make chips the jewellery of the snack world.
Simba’s crinkle cut is widely perceived as a superior flavour-retention mechanism. In 2021, a social media referendum prompted users to vote to save their favourite Simba flavour: Cheese and Onion and Salt and Vinegar survived, but Tomato Sauce did not.
Barbecue Fritos, 120g. R15.99, Pick n Pay. R15.99, Checkers.
Fritos and Lay's are American sister brands: their respective companies merged to form Frito-Lay in 1961. In South Africa, both fall under the Simba company, owned by Pioneer Foods. In March 2020, American PepsiCo purchased the majority shares in Pioneer Foods, a well-received investment in the local economy.