A court in London has ruled that Pringles, the iconic snacks in the ubiquitous red tube, are not potato chips.
Apparently, there are not enough potatos in Pringles to have them legally qualify as “potato chips” or “potato crisps.” That matters to the tax office because in the UK, most food is exempt from a steep 17.5% sales tax. The taxing authorities, however, claimed that Pringles fell under an exception for potato chips, sticks or puffs and “similar products made from the potato, or from potato flour, or from potato starch.”
Procter & Gamble, Pringles parent company, said no. The company claimed that Pringles are not made like potato chips since they are cooked from baked dough and not slices of potato; in fact, Pringles are just 42% potato. Additionally, Pringles have a shelf life of 15 months, versus four months for potato crisps – chew on that for a bit.
The company further argued that potato chips “give a sharply crunchy sensation under the tooth and have to be broken down into jagged pieces when chewed,” while Pringles are “designed to melt down on the tongue.”
The courts agreed: Pringles is not made largely from potatoes, does not look, feel or taste like a potato chip and is therefore, tax-exempt.
I’m not quite sure what kind of victory that is, really. Pringles “wins” because it proved that it’s not the product that it markets itself as… Or does it? On the Pringles web site, Pringles is consistently referred to as a snack – and not as potato chips. And now, legally, a Pringles chip has been ruled as something (I’m not sure what) other than a potato chip. My four year old, however, begs to differ: just this morning, she declared them “potato chips.” I think I just discovered the secret to the UK Tax Office’s appeal…
(Hat Tip: TaxProf Blog)