Bigger Bags Don’t Equal More Wise Potato Chips, Shocking Lawsuit Claims

wise potato chips
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There are few things worse than paying top dollar for a party-size bag of chips only to open them and realize that the bag is mostly air.

This extra air — or “slack-fill” — which just about every bag of chips includes, is not a scam. It’s there to ensure your chips aren’t crumbs when they make it to your mouth.

But two people are calling out the makers of Wise potato chips for its slack-filling practices in a new lawsuit filed on Monday. The lawsuit claims the food manufacturer is cheating unsuspecting customers by selling larger bags filled with fewer chips and more air than necessary.

Food and Drug Administration regulations allow companies like Wise Food to add some protective air to bags, but it prohibits “nonfunctional slack-fill.”

“When consumers purchase a package of Defendants’ Products, they are getting less product than they bargained for, effectively they are tricked into paying for air, because the Products contain large amounts of non-functional slack-fill,” the class-action lawsuit claims.

How Wise’s Slack-Fill Stacks Up

The snackers leading the lawsuit are Sameline Alce of New York and Desiré Nugent of Washington, D.C.

To prove Wise Food was violating FDA regulations by overfilling its bags with air, Alce and Nugent compared Wise bags to its competitors’ bags.

In one of the most telling examples, Alce and Nugent compared a bag of Wise Ridgies Sour Cream & Onion potato chips to a Ruffles Sour Cream & Onion chips. According to the lawsuit, the Ruffles bag was about 1.5 inches shorter than the Wise bag and held more chips by weight.

“All 8.5 oz. bags of Ruffles Sour Cream & Onion Potato Chips have approximately the same amount of slack-fill, demonstrating that it is possible to consistently manufacture potato chip products with 30% slack-fill,” the lawsuit says, emphasizing the finding that the similar bag of Wise chips contained about 67% air.

Alce and Nugent also compared two bags of Wise chips to back up their claims that the company is using slack-fill deceptively. In this example, the plaintiffs showed the 4.5- and 2.75-ounce bags of Ridgies Sour Cream & Onion are physically the same size, but the 2.75-ounce bag had far more unnecessary slack-fill than the 4.5-ounce bag.

“No manufacturing or other constraints limit (Wise Food) from filling its 2.75 oz. bag more fully or from using a smaller bag to package 2.75 oz. of chips,” the lawsuit says. “(Wise’s) 4.5 oz. bag – which itself contains non-functional slack-fill – shows that more chips can fit comfortably within a smaller bag.”

Alce and Nugent admitted that Wise did print accurate weight measurements of the chips inside on the bags. However, they said the company used larger bags than necessary and filled them with extra air. They claimed that practice tricked customers into buying Wise bags under the reasonable assumption that larger bags meant more chips.

Based on the size of the bag, the lawsuit said, customers often received fewer chips than they reasonably expected when they purchased it.

Does This Class-Action Suit Include You?

There is no doubt the issue Alce and Nugent brought up in their lawsuit has enraged others, but not everyone who has purchased Wise chips is eligible to join this lawsuit.

Currently, only those who purchased Wise chips in New York or Washington, D.C., will benefit from the suit if a judge determines Wise Food violated FDA regulations.

Alce and Nugent are suing for damages for all customers who they say were tricked by Wise. The New York lawsuit seeks $50 to $1,000 per violation, while the Washington, D.C., lawsuit is seeking up to $1,500 per violation. More specifics on dollar amounts will come as the lawsuit progresses.

The lawsuit also demands the company change its packaging to remove any unnecessary air and make it easier for customers to guage how full the bags are before purchasing them.

Your Turn: When was the last time you bought Wise chips? Did you have a similar experience?

Desiree Stennett (@desi_stennett) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She doesn’t eat Wise chips. She’s more of a Pringles girl.