Profit does not increase, Shakespeare once wrote, where no pleasure is obtained. And so, in the tedious march of life, we find joy in the little things: the sunrise. A good glass of wine. The greasy touch of a well-seasoned crispy potato.

But soft! Not so fast. Life offers no simple pleasures, and even that delicious crunch comes with an important debate: How much potato is in a real crispy potato (chips, to us Americans)?

I’m several other probing questions of the potato chip aficionado, was immortalized by a British tax appeals court last week, which ruled that Walkers Sensations Poppadoms, the fluffy, non-crispy potato medallions, are, in fact, the same as potato chips.

Thus, we join the hallowed list of existential debates about food, whose moral implications far outweigh the consumable utility of their topics. Among them: he is a Jaffa Cake a cake or a cookie? Does a Chicago style pie count as pizza? Is a hot dog a sandwich? Do you prefer Wawa to Sheetz or are you wrong?

The ruling means that Walkers, the company that makes poppadoms and dozens of other snacks, will have to pay the same value-added tax on its poppadoms as it does on its various crisps. More importantly, a trial judge has recorded for all lovers of men and freshness the kind of diktat that is sure to disproportionately irritate the masses.

“Food is probably one of the most visceral and powerful ways to express cultural identity,” said Dr. Ty Matejowsky, professor of anthropology at the University of Central Florida. As such, he said, the court ruling is unlikely to change anyone’s mind on the matter.

The Walkers crisps label has clear similarities to the American Lays crisps brand and also distributes Doritos in Great Britain. It’s because they are all owned by Pepsico, which maintained the Walkers brand in Britain and Ireland. The label is different, but they are actually the same chip.

A poppadom, an English version of the Indian “papadum”, is a flat, circular, crusty bread usually made with chickpea flour. Traditionally, they are the size of a tortilla. Walkers, however, independently developed the design into a smaller form, closer to the size of a potato chip, which they introduced with the help of a Sikh Elvis impersonator in the late 1980s.

The Walkers’ dispute bears an uncanny resemblance to the big Pringles decision of 2008, when a British high court judge ruled that the ubiquitous canned snacks also counted as crisps, despite tax-related arguments to the contrary.

At its colloquial essence, the debate revolves around whether poppadoms are food or snacks. For purposes of the law, “food” requires preparation and must be eaten as part of something larger. “Snacks” are efficient packages that can be enjoyed alone. Like, say, a bag of chips.

It may seem like a trivial distinction, but when it comes to British tax law, it is no small matter. While most food products are exempt from tax, the current Value Added Tax rate for snacks such as crisps is 20 per cent, putting the potential stakes of Walkers’ poppadom at multi-million pound.

“It’s a lot of money for the government,” said Dr. Catherine Clarke, a law professor at the University of Exeter. “It’s all really nonsense. But that’s where we are.”

The ruling is the latest in a year-long journey for Walkers, which has claimed since 2021 that its Sensations Poppadoms are No the same as their crispy potato cousins ​​and should therefore be tax-exempt like most other foods.

There are many reasons, Walkers’ lawyers said, why a poppadom is not crispy. To begin with, they should be eaten with other things like chutney or sauces or, you could say, prepared. And any “ordinary person on the street” would know that they are not the same. Perhaps most critically, Walkers argued, is that the types of potato starch and granules used to make poppadom should not be counted as potato ingredients, by purist standards.

Unfortunately for Walkers, the court was unmoved by the company’s case. Poppadoms may not contain as much potato as a traditional crisp, the judge said, but the proper ratio of potato, poppadom and chips is in the eye of the beholder.

“The products,” the judge wrote, “obviously contain potatoes.”

It’s a narrow ruling, no thanks to Walkers, whose lawyers almost sank the proverbial poppadoms ship. Many poppadoms other than potatoes, the company argued, were exempt from VAT in the UK.

But the case, like so many others, failed.

“The fact that a poppadom made from a traditional recipe using chickpea flour without potatoes is zero-rated for VAT purposes does not mean that a poppadom made from a traditional recipe that includes potatoes should also be zero-rated,” he said. Judge. “The first is not excluded because it is a ‘poppadom’ but because it does not contain potatoes.”

Walkers, who did not respond to a request for comment on the verdict, has eight weeks to appeal. Until then, the law has spoken. Spiritually, it could be a poppadom. But legally (at least for now) it is a chip.