Last week, snack food giant Lay’s took to social media to proudly announce that they had a new special edition bag featuring soccer star Lionel Messi. The response was probably not what they expected. As of this writing, their Twitter and Instagram posts about the release are among their most engaged posts ever… for all the wrong reasons. Nearly all of the 600+ Instagram comments are complaints that the bag’s design and concept are “stolen” from popular black-owned food company Rap Snacks.
Founded by James Lindsay, Rap Snacks is a popular food and beverage brand that sells “snacks” in colorful, eye-catching packaging that features prominent rap artists. The bags are designed by branding legend Jai Manselle and feature heavy hitters like Snoop Dogg, Cardi B, Migos, and The Notorious B.I.G. to name a few. In recent years, the company has really taken off and is sold in retailers like Sam’s Club and Walmart.
“The fact is that @manselle and #RapSnacks have been doing exactly this. This is robbery and I can’t see supporting you guys again until you make this right…” reads the post’s top Instagram comment. A barrage of similarly frustrated, annoyed, and disappointed comments fill the rest of the feed. A large number of comments specifically call out Lay’s for not only what they perceive as “stealing” from Manselle and Rap Snacks, but, also as gentrifying a creative idea as soon as it starts working.
Lay’s decision to feature a celebrity in the center of its product does give a very Rap Snacks-esque vibe. However, that might have been able to slide if it weren’t for the striking aesthetic similarities between the designs. Messi’s bag is black with his face in black and white and surrounded by gold text that informs you that you are looking at the “GOAT Edition” bag. Well, Manselle hit a strikingly similar cord last year with the Rap Snacks “ICON Edition” bags that could be described the exact same way (save for the fact that they feature rap icons Master P and Biggie Smalls instead of Messi).
Rap legend Percy “Master P” Miller is a major Rap Snacks investor and is featured on a bag that looks suspiciously similar to the Lay’s Messi bag. The always outspoken businessman took to Instagram this morning with his signature vibrato. In an Al Pachino-inspired clip, he can be seen walking down the opulent spiral staircases of his home with bags of Rap Snacks declaring (among other things) that “people want original, you can’t knock us off” and “You make a black and gold bag and talk about the GOAT?”
In a lengthy companion caption, Miller started “It’s time the truth be told” and ended with “@manselle Join the movement!”
Lay’s has yet to make a statement as of this writing. But, James Lindsay took the controversy in stride with a statement on his Instagram account that started: “When your brand is disrupting a multi-billion dollar industry. Your so-called competitors are going try to protect their market share by any means necessary. The crazy thing is, I do not see any of these companies as competitors. @officialrapsnacks we are in our own lane. Our packaging is original. Our flavor profiles are new and innovative.”
After a few hours, Jai Manselle also utilized social media to address how he felt about the situation in a lengthy post that was paired with a side-by-side image of the Rap Snacks ICON bags and the Lay’s GOAT bag. “When you innovate and disrupt an industry as we have with #RapSnacks, the entire industry feels the ripple” he began. He goes on to talk about how just a few years ago people called them crazy for their radical branding concept that is now being mimicked by the biggest brands in the world. Though he admitted to the situation “hitting a nerve,” he ultimately was positive about the controversy and encouraged fans to pay attention to the power that this demonstrates can come from “our ideas, our culture, and our minds.”
This is a developing story and it will be interesting to see how Lay’s chooses to handle the backlash from fans.