Who invented smiley face fries or potato smiles?
January 25, 2022 7:24 PM   Subscribe

I don't remember smiley face fries or potato smiles being a thing when I was a kid, but I know some people my age (thirties) who are nostalgic for them, and I know some people in their mid-twenties who had them in school as a kid. This page purports to answer the question but doesn't as far as I can tell. So who invented smiley face fries or potato smiles, and when and where did they first come out?
posted by limeonaire to Food & Drink (4 answers total)
The only ones I know of are from McCain, a huge multinational foodservice company that specializes in potatoes (amongst other things). They were called Smiles in their original form; they were brought back in recent years in some countries. The oldest commercial I could find on YouTube claims 1990.
posted by hijinx at 7:57 PM on January 25

Yeah, late 80s/early 90s seems about right. I remember seeing them in both Canadian and American grocery stores on various SCA jaunts, and we* called them "acid house fries".

*OK, just me.
posted by maudlin at 8:53 PM on January 25 [2 favorites]

UK person here. Pretty sure I ate them as a kid which would have been the 80s and early 90s too.
posted by ihaveyourfoot at 11:58 PM on January 25

I recall them around 1990 as well. I would bet you could get the year by contacting McCain's corporate office or by reaching them on Twitter, where they appear to be reasonably responsive; that's the sort of thing likely to be recorded in a corporate archive.

The inventor, if there was an individual rather than it being a corporate product development project, is something they're unlikely to divulge. However, there is a trade journal that covers the potato industry, and that's something someone on the staff of such a trade journal may know and they would be more likely to be forthcoming.

McCain holds three trademarks pertaining to Smiles, but none of them have an illuminating first use in commerce date - they're all this century.

There is an ad in the trade journal Restaurant Business with the text "Ore-lda introduces smile shaped mashed potatoes." The volume is dated 2001, but I know from using Google Books that sometimes volumes are wrongly dated in either direction. You could contact that journal and see if they would be willing to check that date for you.

Looking at Ore-Ida's and McCain's patents, I don't find a matching patent.

I also looked at newspapers.com to see if advertising would be illuminating and I didn't find any useful results.
posted by jocelmeow at 8:33 AM on January 26 [3 favorites]

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