Hampton alumna’s spicy taste buds win $1M

Joey Matthews | 11/18/2014, 6 a.m.
Meneko Spigner McBeth's award-winning Lay’s Kettle Cooked Wasabi Ginger potato chips soon will line the aisles.
Meneko Spigner McBeth shows off the package for her prize-winning wasabi ginger potato chips.

Hampton University graduate Meneko Spigner McBeth looks forward to going grocery shopping in coming days.

Her award-winning Lay’s Kettle Cooked Wasabi Ginger potato chips soon will line the aisles.

Mrs. McBeth, who graduated from Hampton in 2001 with a bachelor’s degree in nursing, won the Frito-Lay “Do Us A Flavor” $1 million contest last month.

She will receive $1 million or 1 percent of the flavor’s net sales through July 15, 2015, whichever is greater in value.

“I was really in shock because I wasn’t expecting to win,” Mrs. McBeth, who lives in Deptford, N.J., about 20 miles outside Philadelphia, told the Free Press.

She said Frito-Lay officials said her chips would become a regular product and her name would be on the back of the package.

She said she expects the potato chips to be in stores in early 2015.

Mrs. McBeth, a Temple University Hospital medical surgical nurse, was named the winner during a dinner Oct. 20 in New York City. Her entry beat three other finalists’ flavors: Cheddar Bacon Mac and Cheese, Wavy Mango Salsa and Cappuccino. Mrs. McBeth’s flavor suggestion, along with those of the other finalists, were selected from more than 14 million submissions.

Mrs. McBeth said Hampton University officials sent her a congratulatory note. She also has heard from numerous alumni and friends.

“They’re very excited,” she said of her Hampton University fans. “They’ve been very supportive, especially during the voting process — getting behind me, rallying behind their HBCU graduate.”

She said she and her husband, Christopher, plan to use the winnings to cover the costs of future college and wedding expenses for their three daughters — Ingenue, 8, Ilania, 4, and Ileigh, 2.

“I might treat myself to some kind of sports car,” she added.

Finalists were selected from nationwide voting by consumers.

Mrs. McBeth submitted her entry last winter; voting took place July 20 through Oct. 18.

“I saw the contest last year after it was in the voting stages. I saw some commercials about it and said if they have it next year, I’m going to enter.”

Entrants chose three “ingredients” and sent a note about their inspiration. Mrs. McBeth chose wasabi, ginger and soy sauce.

“Wasabi is almost like a Japanese horseradish,” she said.

“They were the kind of flavors I enjoy that I thought might go well on a salty snack.”

Mrs. McBeth credits her grandmother, Sayoko Wilson, with introducing her to sushi and traditional Japanese cuisine at an early age and influencing the chip idea.

“I think it’s an amazing taste,” she said. “It’s not like any chip out there.”