America! Presents: Humpty Dumpty “Lobster Bisque” Flavored Potato Chips

When I was a Senior in high school, I was pretty broke most of the time. This was, as I think back, mostly by choice; I had a perfectly respectable teenager’s job at the Shaw’s Supermarket in Rockland, which I knew wasn’t going to be a major career move. The four dollars per hour I earned pushing discarded shopping carts around the parking lot wasn’t much of an incentive, either; at the end of a week of work, I’d be presented with a check for 34 dollars, after taxes. No, I decided my time would be much better spent squatting on the mean streets of Tenants Harbor, the kind of lovely seaside community where the installation of a gas pump at the local market made big news, and the sight of an idle teenager in combat boots could still be shocking, or at least, of mild interest. One day, I simply called the manager of the supermarket, and told him that I wasn’t coming in that day. Or ever again.

In the nearly twenty years that have gone by since then, placing value on my time instead of on my income has led to periods of some pretty questionable dietary choices. After quitting my job at Shaw’s as a teenager, for example, my gainful employment was replaced by a diet that was made up almost entirely of Humpty Dumpty “Sour Cream ‘n’ Clam” flavored potato chips, and Little Debbie “Nutty Bars,” which then cost only a quarter. These chips were, to me, the star of Humpty Dumpty’s lineup of decidedly weird flavors, which at the time also included dill pickle, roast chicken, and ketchup flavors. The big purple bag offered around 1200 calories for $1.69, which, at the time, just made good sense economically.

When we moved back to Maine in 2009 after spending four years living in Mexico, Humpty Dumpty “Sour Cream ‘n’ Clam” potato chips were one of the first comforting snacks from home that I couldn’t wait to get reacquainted with. To my dismay, however, something peculiar must have happened at the Humpty Dumpty company during our time away. Not only were Sour Cream ‘n’ Clam chips seemingly no longer being manufactured, but there seemed to be a real scarcity to ANY of Humpty Dumpty’s oddball flavors. The chip section (which in America commands at least one half of an entire aisle) was strangely short on Humpty Dumpty’s products, and when they were available, could only be found in their boring “plain” and “barbecue” varieties.

This long-winded introduction is meant only to properly convey the unbridled enthusiasm which I felt all the way into my very soul, upon spotting a bag of Humpty Dumpty Ripples “Lobster Bisque” Potato Chips. After so much time apart, I was genuinely excited about finally getting to once again combine my love of potato chips with my love of seafood. In the strangely aggressive world of potato chip marketing, where every other bag is “Extreme Nacho” or “Flavor-Blasted Ranch” or “Collarbone-Shattering Chiptole,” the sincerity and folksy charm of the Humpty Dumpty package is a calming relief. There’s Humpty Dumpty himself at the top of the bag, in a red bow tie, doffing his cap and waving. The startled-looking South Park-style lobsters also look happy to be there, even though it is they that are ostensibly ground into dust and caked onto the potato chips within. Even the price is old-timey and comforting; at just two bucks a bag, not buying them wouldn’t make any sense at all.

Humpty Dumpty Lobster Bisque Potato Chips

When I first pulled open the bag, I was awash in an instantly familiar scent that I hadn’t smelled in many years. It wasn’t regular potato chips, though, or even the Sour Cream ‘n’ Clam chips of my memory. After a few deep inhalations, I realized that the Lobster Bisque chips from Humpty Dumpty smell exactly like Smartfood cheese popcorn, that slightly acidic, slightly musty funk that I haven’t smelled in years, primarily because I don’t smoke weed and thus have no occasion to eat Smartfood popcorn. It seemed like a strange way for seafood-flavored chips to smell; where was the lobster, in my Lobster Bisque chips?

The weak presentation of the chip’s aroma extended, unfortunately, to the chips themelves. My first reaction to them was that they tasted simply vaguely “seasoned,” but not like anything resembling lobster, or for that matter, like anything that came from the sea. Mostly, the chips tasted like run-of-the-mill ranch flavoring, with maybe a tiny bit of a stanky finish, which must be what the Humpty Dumpty flavor scientists were equating with lobster.

A glance at the ingredient list reveals the problem. Humpty Dumpty Lobster Bisque potato chips get their flavor from, in order: Buttermilk powder, tomato powder, MSG, onion powder, and garlic powder, followed by the more vague “natural flavor” and the even more vague “spices.” In other words, the same seasonings you would use in ranch or sour cream and onion flavored chips. You know what’s not on the list? Lobster. Heavy Cream. White wine. Parmesan cheese. Not one of the things that make a good lobster bisque, and not even any synthetic or extracted versions of those ingredients.

I want my Lobster Bisque flavored potato chips to taste like lobster bisque, not like the inside of a hospital linen closet. Though I was pleased with the chips’ crunch and texture, the price, as well with how many arrived back to my house intact and unbroken, they simply did not deliver the classic Humpty Dumpty seafood-flavored potato chip experience that I’ve been missing. As reluctant as I am to say it, these chips are no substitute for their clam-flavored ancestors. Humpty Dumpty Sour Cream ‘n’ Clam, no one has seen your equal. I miss you.

(Nutrition Facts — 1 ounce, about 18 chips — 150 calories, 70 calories from fat, 8 grams of total fat, 0.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 310 milligrams of sodium, 16 grams of total carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of dietary fiber, less than 1 gram of sugars, and 2 grams of protein.)

In our “America! Presents” series, we review, at great personal peril, some of the things that are in the supermarket (particularly the frozen food section) that we just don’t remember being here before. Synthesized from non-ingredients, mass-produced and marketed with breathless excitement, most of these items are pretty disappointing. Some day, we will find a winner. But probably not. To read more from this series, click here.

Malcolm Bedell is co-author of the critically acclaimed "Eating in Maine: At Home, On the Town, and On the Road," as well as the taco-centric blog "Eat More Tacos," and the junk food-centric "Spork & Barrel." His contributions include Serious Eats, Down East, L.A. Weekly, The Guardian, and The Huffington Post and his food truck, "'Wich, Please," was named "Hottest Restaurant in Maine" for 2015 by Eater. Finally, he finds it very silly to be trying to write this in the third person.


  1. It’s always sad when a big part of your youth washes away with the flow of time. I still pine for Nintendo cereal, once in a while.

    Perhaps creating a dish using these chips and some real lobster might bring that nostalgic feeling?

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  2. Humpty Dumpty’s sour cream and clams is on the shelves now. I see it sitting side by side with the lobster bisque flavor just about everywhere chips are available (Walmart even has a larger than life archway made up of both flavors, big surprise right?) Just so you know they aren’t gone.

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      1. Where u been shopping MB? Hannaford had a whole display of sour cream and clam Humpty Dumpty chips. And I agree, the lobster bisque chips are nasty. It’s got this sort of fake tomato flavor…absolutely no hint of lobster.

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  3. When I saw the headline of this post on Facebook I had to read it, you see I spent almost 4 years living in Ireland while I was in college and one of the things which apsalutly does not translate between Western Europe and the states is potato chip flavorings (or crisps as they are known across the sea). Roast chicken, bacon, beef, and prawn are some of the most common verities, in fact they don’t seem to understand flavoring a chip with any other then meat based things. Something you never see in the states, or at least I thought it was unheard of until I read your story of the Humpty Dumpty brand (which is new to me). My all time favorite moment of cultural confusion happened because of a bag of crisps, one of the chip companies did specialty flavors every year and the first year I was living in Dublin one of them was buffalo, with a picture of a buffalo (as in bison) on the bag. They were actually pretty good tasted as about as much like buffalo wings as you can imagine a potato chip tasting, but I digress. The confusion happened when a friend who was eating a bag turned to me and ask “so is this what buffalo really tastes like?” I sat in domfunded silence for a moment and then very articulately said “buffalo? What are you talking about?” She nodded and said “you know bison, buffalo like in the Wild West”… And then it occurred to me buffalo wings are just called hot wings in Ireland, they have no idea about buffalo New York or anything. And to them there would be nothing abnormal in a meat flavored potato chip, the question is why did the chip company replicate a classic chicken wing flavor give it the American name which would have no meaning in Ireland and then put a picture of a buffalo on the package. I think their must have been a disconnect there somewhere. Anyway I tried to explain the confusion but I don’t think they really believed me, after all there was that bison on the bag.

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    1. Ah yes, the meat-flavored chips from across the sea. What an awesome story…I can understand the idea of “Buffalo” wings making no sense, particularly with a bison on the bag. 🙂

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          1. “Odd” flavors is more like it to my taste buds. I’ve never been able to develop a passion for any of the flavored chips, apart from an occasional bag of salt & vinegar chips. Everything else seems to have a combination of spices and flavorings that leaves me tasting them long after I care to. Even something seemingly as simple as salt & pepper chips are usually overloaded with garlic powder and a sticky coating that probably doubles to identify money stolen from banks. The only Humpty Dumpty product I really liked for was a kettle chip (the exact name eludes me) that they developed and discarded just prior to the sellout.

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  4. Heck Yeah the Sour Cream & Clam ones are back. I personally mowed through a whole bag a few weeks ago. It’s like a chip and clam dip all rolled into one. Which is great, because suddenly there is no clam dip on the shelves any more. I think that should be your next recipe project. Clam dip. There is a recipe on the side of the Snow’s minced clam can which will suffice in a pinch.

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    1. I know it! “Helluva Good” used to make one, but I haven’t seen it anywhere. I have actually been meaning to write up my dad’s clam dip recipe for a while now, I’ll get on that!

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  5. I used to live in Yarmouth and would frequent a local Mom and Pop store that had AWESOME crab rolls for CHEAP. And they were made with real crab, not the crap made from pollock and spelled with a K (krab). I would go to that store several times per week and get a crab roll and a bag of the clam chips and be in heaven for just a few bucks. I miss those days! I live on the coast of Virginia now and I dont think Humpty Dumpty distributes down here. We do have several makers of crab chips, but they’re mostly just seasoned with Old Bay seasoning. I found this blog doing a search on google for lobster chips which someone told me about. And on the subject of clam dip, I too have noticed that the once very popular premade clam dip is no longer to be found in grocery stores. I don’t know if it’s because the cost of clams went way up, or if there were too many incidents of people getting sick from rancid clams, or what the issue is…but I miss it. I do on occasion make my own. Interesting that you lived in Mexico for 4 years. I’ve very much been considering moving to the Yucatan (Merida) area.

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      1. I’ll trade you a case of clam chips for it! 😉
        I’d love to know what your experience down there was like especially having come from Maine. What are you currently doing with your house down there? Renting it out? Feel free to email me at riversidereptiles at yahoo if you’d like to share some info on life down there.

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  6. Oh my word! I tooooootally feel you! Humpty Dumpty Clam chips were my absolute favorite snack growing up in Maine. SO sad that I can’t get them anymore. Are they really still making them? I live in LA now, so no luck finding them in stores, but I wonder if I could get them shipped. Googling now… 🙂

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  7. We recently spent some time in Mexico City where Chuck found 7-11 brand Hot Dog flavoured chips. They tasted surprisingly like hot dogs, down to the mustard and ketchup. But they leave that weird after taste.

    My brother lives in Thailand, and there’s a country with weird chip flavours! Squid or strange vegetable flavours and just weird combos.

    I didn’t know that Old Dutch bought out Humpty Dumpty. We grew up in Winnipeg, where Old Dutch Canada is headquartered. (Their international headquarters is in Minnesota.) OD has great BBQ chips but they tend to have some flavours only in certain regions. I would try sour cream and clam chips but don’t talk to me about clam dip…..

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  8. Ooh I remember eating the ketchup flavored Humpty Dumpty chips the few times were were able to locate them while visiting Maine. Always loved dipping my chips in ketchup as a kid. Glad I outgrew that!

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