If you’re a junk food lover, you’ll know this: No matter where you shop or what brand you buy, when you tear open a bag of potato chips, it’s almost always half-empty. This can be quite disappointing as people buy those chip bags hoping that they will be filled with crispy, crinkle-cut potato chips to the brim. However, there’s actually a good reason for this—and no, the food company isn’t pulling a fast one on you!
In the manufacturing industry, 'slack fill' is an empty space that’s intentionally placed around a product. The idea is that the extra room can act as a buffer to protect some perishable edibles from damage. If it weren’t for slack fill, even the absolute best potato chips would probably look more like slaughtered breadcrumbs by the time they reach you as the ride from the production facility to a store or your office’s vending machine might not be the smoothest and fastest transport ever.
The cushion of puffed up air around your chips is actually nitrogen gas! In 1994, scientists found that exposing chips to nitrogen not only helped to extend their shelf life but also made them taste better. Hence, manufacturers fill bags with this preservative gas to help keep those chips fresh as regular air would likely turn them into soggy, spoiled leftovers. Psst! Good thing that nitrogen is a natural gas and completely harmless. Even though you may feel thoroughly deceived by chip companies thinking that you aren’t receiving the most bang for your buck, do understand that without that disappointing air overload, your chips won’t taste the same either!