Saturday, 21 October 2017


Pipers Crisps, one of Britain’s best-known crisp brands, set out to understand more about the science behind their premium products and processes and they turned to food experts at the University of Nottingham.

The partnership gave Pipers direct access to the Food Flavour and Sensory Science Laboratories in the School of Biosciences and the specialist knowledge of PhD student, now Dr. Deepa Agarwal — an expert in food structure, flavor and product development.

Inside the science labs, Dr. Agarwal used gas chromatography mass spectroscopy (GC/MS) to understand the flavor profile and stability of Pipers crisps. With the help of advanced statistical analysis tools, she optimized cooking temperatures and times to minimize waste, enhance shelf life without compromising taste perception.

The samples were stored at 45°C in relative humidity-controlled incubators for up to eight weeks to simulate shelf life. Dr. Agarwal then crushed and crunched her way through the samples to analyze and identify every aspect of degradation — of the potato, the oil the crisps were cooked in, and of the flavors. Her research involved the analysis of nearly 80 different aroma compounds.

Having prepared samples, she worked on the frying settings which can affect aroma profile and texture properties of base potatoes and crisps.

Back at the factory, Dr. Agarwal spent 12 months drawing up a detailed training and selection program to establish a team of specialist ‘tasters’. Drawing on her training in sensory science, she looked for staff with untapped expertise in all five senses — hearing to define texture, taste, smell, touch and sight.

This team — drawn from across the company from the boardroom to the factory floor — will continue to use their new-found tools to support product development and support day to day quality control.

When the company started looking for a new flavor, they turned to Dr. Agarwal to carry out market research, test and develop the flavor formulation provided by existing suppliers.

Working with the flavor house, the result was the successful introduction of a new vegetarian flavored crisp — wild thyme and rosemary.

She said: “I tested it out with the sensory trained panel. They assessed the flavor formulation. We also tested the shelf life of the product — sensory analysis from age zero to fully-aged samples. Sensory testing with the trained panel helped us to explain the changes in taste using the technical analysis from the lab. For instance, for the recently launched slightly salted sweet potato crisps, the results influenced the cooking process to achieve a great tasting new product and firmly established the importance of the role of the new tasting team.”

The results generated by Dr. Agarwal during this project offered a fundamental understanding on flavor instability over shelf life. She was able to suggest changes to the production process to increase shelf life from 28 weeks to 40 weeks. This opened doors to new export markets, such as South East Asia and the US.

She has been closely involved in the launch of two new products, the Wild Thyme and Rosemary crisps and a new range of slightly salted sweet potato crisps.

James McKinney, Managing Director, said: “We aren’t a health food — we are a premium product - but it is important we look at the ways to reduce and manage fat levels and salt content in our products.”

Pipers Crisps was set up 13 years ago. The company now employs around 80 people at its manufacturing base in Brigg, Lincolnshire.  

Related articles: 

Pipers Crisp Co. Potato Chips Joins Liberty Richter  

Pringles Announces Limited Top Ramen-flavored Chips 

Natural Antioxidant to Extend Potato Chips Shelf Life 

Pipers Crisp Co. Potato Chips Joins Liberty Richter

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