Tag Archives: law

Pringles! Once you pop, you can’t stop..paying VAT

I’ve been intrigued by this case for a while.

For anyone not following the story, basically the facts are these:
– In the UK, you don’t pay vat on most food, but you do on salted peanuts, crisps, and other “potato sticks, potato puffs and similar products made from the potato, or from potato flour, or from potato starch” (VAT Act 1994 (from Sky News’ article)

– For that reason, last year, the makers of Pringles attempted to get them reclassified to pretty much anything else, so they could get out of paying VAT.
They succeeded legally in proving that Pringles weren’t a crisp, because they have such little potato content (around 42%). They also argued that they had 33% fat and didn’t taste like potato.
That’s just been overturned, so they will now have to pay VAT.

More details from Sky News here.

Now I’ve got several problems with this.
I’m amazed from a PR perspective, that in this day and age where people want to know what’s in their food, with the rise in natural/green products and organic food, that they’ve run a huge legal campaign marketing how little actual natural ingredient is in their own product.
Can you imagine Renault attempting to say their latest car isn’t a car, because it goes half as fast as the competition? Because it’s half as comfortable? Because it got less than half in the NCAP safety tests?

Whether Pringles want to admit it or not, they ARE marketed as crisps.
They’re in the crisps aisle with the crisps, and the biggest single ingredient in them is potato.
They’ve been plasto-moulded and duplicated to look like a crisp would look like if you attempted to draw one.
Nobody has Pringles AND also crisps, at a party.

That is unless they’re planning a party for me, as I hate the things.
I’m no gourmet chef, but they do sum up everything that gives processed food a bad name. They’re high-fat, low-content, overpackaged, uniformly-identical products and almost completely tasteless.
For me, they fall into the same category as Sunny Delight and Cheese Strings. It’s food made to look a certain way, then heavily advertised in attempt to make it cool.
What it tastes like or is made of, is a long way down the list of concerns. The difference between these three products though, is that Pringles’ is still considered somewhat cool.

Maybe that was their plan all along.
As a crisp, a Pringle looks horrible from all angles on paper – it’s high in fat, and low in potato. It’s a very poor man’s crisp.
Essentially it’s a well-marketed Tesco Value crisp. It’s got no potato in it and it doesn’t taste of anything.
Nobody would want sausages with 42% pork, or teabags with 58% “other ingredients”.
However, if you can convince people they’re really not a disgustingly-poor imitation of a REAL crisp, but they’re actually *anything else*, it’s suddenly less of a concern.
Maybe they’ll add 1% oats into the packet lining next and attempt to classify them as flapjacks.

If you want cheap crisps, buy own brand. If you want more expensive crisps, buy Walkers. If you want posher crisps, there’s Kettle Chips/Burts.
If you want something with 33% fat and 42% potato plus a whole load of other crap, Pringles are definitely the way forward.