The consistent saddle shape of Pringles

The story behind the saddle shape of Pringles

The consistent saddle shape of Pringles is mathematically known as a hyperbolic paraboloid. Their designers reportedly used supercomputers to ensure that the chip aerodynamics would keep them in place during packaging and that they would not break when being stacked on top of each other.

shape of Pringles
shape of Pringles

In 1956, Procter and Gamble assigned a task to chemist Fredric J. Baur: to develop a new kind of potato chips to address consumer complaints about broken, greasy, and stale chips, as well as air in the bags.

Baur spent 2 years developing saddle-shaped chips from fried dough and selected the tubular can as the chip’s container. Gene Wolfe, a mechanical engineer and author known for science fiction and fantasy novels, helped develop the machine that’s cooks them.

A classic example of a heavily tech-focused solution to ingeniously solve customers problems in a non-tech industry and that too, in 1956.

Shape of Pringles

It’s worth noting, the double curvature doesn’t encourage lines of stress to form, which I expect not only to reduce breakage before packaging, but also gives it its distinctive crunch which is surprisingly important part of improving the customer experience. Hence their slogan “Once you pop, you can’t stop” And it’s true!

One more reason for chips being hyperbolic paraboloid is that, given a material, the best shape that gives both the structural stability and maximum strength is this shape. This particular shape was selected because of its symmetry. The symmetric nature across any selected parabola in the shape minimizes the surface area of the chip.

This means, you get crispy chips even when you slice a very thin piece and get this shape out of it. That also provides profits to the company.