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What Do Those Colorful Circles on Your Bag of Chips Mean?

Multicolored circles on a bag of chips.
Amanda Gambill

You’re used to seeing Chester the Cheetah on your bag of Cheeto’s and that iconic bright-red logo on your Lay’s potato chips. But there’s one design element all chip bags have in common: those colorful circles at the bottom of the bag.

Below the nutritional information and just above the bottom seam on every bag of chips, you’ll see a line of multicolored circles. What are these, and what do they mean?

They actually have nothing to do with the food. While it’s easy to assume these circles might be some sort of color-coded expiration date, or a flavor or ingredient indicator, they’re actually just for the printers who create the packaging.

The circles are called printer’s color blocks or process control patches. They’re the exact shades needed to create the packaging. They help the printers ensure each bag of chips is consistent with its color palette.

The number of shades varies based on the brand, but they ensure that the bags of Cheetos in the United States look the same as those in Canada.

“Most printers only use four colors: cyan (blue-green), yellow, magenta, and black, ” said Meg Schiraldi, an expert printing engineer. “But some printers have extra colors, like orange, green, and violet. This helps them match challenging colors, like Maruchan ramen orange and Takis purple. That’s why you may see more circles printed on some packages—they need to check each color of ink!”

If you were curious if those colorful circles had anything to do with the freshness of your chips, you can rest easy. Check for that expiration date, instead.

[Via Taste of Home]

Shea Simmons Shea Simmons
Shea Simmons is an Atlanta-based writer who has written about everything from whether Crisco is a good moisturizer to how to KonMari your space. Her work has appeared in Bustle, My First Apartment, and Make It Grateful. Read Full Bio »

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