Description. Dr. Blankenship won a research grant to study the revolting snacks of China, and while he was in Shanghai, he discovered the Frito-Lay corporation’s darkest secret. Thin, brittle, and oily, the cheese lobster chip looks just like a regular Lay’s, which is terrible news for the unobservant snacker.
Packaging/Branding. Though much of the text is in Chinese, the package promises English speakers a “classic great taste.” Despite extensive interviews, however, Dr. Blankenship could not find anyone who felt this flavor was “classic,” or even part of God’s plan.
The branding image is unnerving: next to a splay of potato chips, a lobster lies belly-up on a bed of lettuce. The creature has been sliced open, spilling lobster bits everywhere, and a floating gravy boat pours melted cheese on its carcass. Claws raised in the air, the mutilated lobster seems to beg for its life as it drowns in a dairy waterfall.
Flavor Profile. The flavors come in waves. There is an explosion of spray cheese, followed by a nauseating blend of lobster and “seafood musk.” The musky taste lingers for at least 10 seconds after swallowing, suggesting the snacker has ingested the entire seafood counter at an unsanitary grocery store.
Habitat. Chinese convenience stores; the backpacks of desperate travelers; boardroom presentations of PETA members who are “trying to make a point.”
Field Notes. All of the ingredients are in Chinese, so we may never know what makes these flavors possible.
Revulsion Scale: 10
Description. A burnt-orange tube, dusted with pollen intended to evoke coconut, the Chick-O-Stick has nothing to do with chicken, although the color is reminiscent of buffalo-wing sauce.
The cross-sectioned Stick, a shiny moon-rock-y affair that resembles a ’70s-sci-fi set-design element, has nothing to do with anything found in nature — except possibly feces (the manner in which the peanut flecks are disported…enough said, we trust).
Packaging/Branding. The font and package shapes recall mid-century diner culture. Meanwhile, the company logo’s star and the product name’s label share the same nuclear-meltdown orange as the Stick, and the transparent cellophane makes no attempt to hide or even lessen the visual impact of the homely snack within — a zen attitude our testers almost admire.
Description. In theory, fruit-flavored hard candy with a soft chocolate center. In practice, less so. “Hard,” to begin, does not seem like a forceful enough adjective to describe the resistance of the exterior. In the package, the straws looked like differentiated pieces, but thanks to melt/de-melt/re-melt in transit, they presented as an unarticulated boulder of confetti-colored candy, necessitating the slamming of said massif onto the lab floor in the manner prescribed for orange Toblerone.
CFSes fall unfortunate prey to the Jelly Donut Hole Instability Principle, which states that, while certain holes will furnish only a small sad smear of jam, others carry a large reservoir that splurts onto the shirtfront. Similarly, chocolate is unevenly allocated among the straws: many contain none at all, most a mere hint, and others a disconcerting splorch of cake-frosting-esque cocoa paste.
The problem proceeds from the concept. The idea of filling a fruit shell with chocolate is understandable, but the size of each straw cannot allow for sufficient chocolate — and the CFS is, in the end, a neither-fish-nor-fowl combo snack, intended to capture two or more demographics and pleasing none. The chocolate lover will reject the faux-colate filling as insufficient; nor will it satisfy the “depressing past-the-sell-by senior-living-horehound” purist — should such a consumer 1) exist or 2) have enough original dental work remaining to pursue his/her avocation.