If the surprisingly thorough Wikipedia page for Bugles is to be believed, this crunchy corn chip debuted in 1966 alongside a suite of other General Mills snack products: Daisies, Whistles, Wheels, Flutes, and Crowns. I guess “People love shapes!” was the overall marketing approach back then. Admittedly, I’d buy anything that this proto-Cookie Monster told me to:
Alas, the bold Snackable Shapes era only lasted about a decade, according to Wikipedia. All these products were discontinued by the end of the 1970s—except, of course, for Bugles, which endured and sit on grocery shelves to this day. Why do Bugles alone continue to thrive? I offer one theory: dippability.
Bugles’ conical shape is great for a number of reasons, including the fact that lots of salt gets stuck down near the tip. But the unique shape begs to be filled, and the options are limitless.
I first realized the dip potential of Bugles when I was up against a chicken salad spread too thick to dip either a tortilla chip or a Triscuit into. But Bugles, with their sturdy fried cornmeal walls, held up against the plunge into unyielding cream-cheese-logged chicken, and the cavity was neatly filled with dip on the way back up. The saltiness of the chip, perhaps excessive when eaten on its own, played great with the mild, creamy cargo. I never serve chicken salad without them now.
Turns out the Bugle’s utility is well known in the culinary world, too. Takeout staff writer Allison Robicelli tells me, “I’ve gone to many, many fancy food events involving tuna tartare served in Bugles.” Tuna tartare! (The fancy person’s chicken salad, really, when you think about it.) Bugles are perfectly suited not only for dipping, but acting as a carrier for party canapes, easily contained to one bite for simplified snacking and socializing. Plus, once party guests realize that the miniature cornucopias they’ve been served are in fact the salty snacks from their childhood, I’m guessing they’ll be nothing short of delighted.
Given this versatility, let us all reconsider the Bugle. You might think of it as something you skip in the snack aisle, something you might have enjoyed as a kid but ultimately outgrew. I say, give it another chance. It’s not flashy, and oh boy, is it pumped full of saturated fat. But there’s a fun, nostalgic element of surprise to see Bugles gracing the appetizer spread, and you’ll get to find out which of your guests used to make witch fingers out of them. Trust me, they won’t be able to help themselves.