BLOG: Chipping in, naturally
You could say we are spoilt for choice these days, in so many ways. Years ago, if you wanted a car it was a Ford (and it was black, no other colors). Now there are hundreds of different makes, models, colors and configurations on the market.
And, writes Andre Erasmus, there’s a similar situation on the chips segment, where flavors and varieties of are flooding the market. It can rightly be said we have come a long way since the first potato chip (or crisp as some nations call it) was served up, way back in the early 1800s.
It was English optician, telescope inventor and ardent cook William Kitchiner who published the first recipe for chips in 1812, which instructed the reader to take large potatoes ‘slice them about a quarter of an inch thick, or cut them in shavings round and round, as you would peel a lemon; dry them well in a clean cloth, and fry them in lard or dripping’. Seasoning? None was mentioned. This honor fell to American George Crum who, in 1853, to satisfy a fussy French fries customer, took the potatoes, cut them razor thin, fried them until crisp and then seasoned them with extra salt.
But that was a one off event. The title for ‘first seasoner’ goes to Joe ‘Spud’ Murphy, who in the 1950s developed a technology to add seasoning during the manufacturing process. After some trial and error, Murphy and his employee, Seamus Burke, produced the world’s first seasoned chips, offering Cheese & Onion, Barbecue, and Salt & Vinegar flavors, through their company called Tayto.
And we have come a long way since then. In just 60-odd years we have flavors ranging from the humble sea salt and Cheese & Onion to 204 flavors offered worldwide by Lays alone. These include Dill Pickle and Mesquite Barbecue (United States) and Wasabi and Ketchup (Canada) as well as more exotic flavors like Beijing Roasted Duck (Vietnam), Finger Licking Braised Pork (China) and Mint Mischief (India). Other companies offer stranger options, like Seaweed, Borsch, Cappuccino and even Octopus!
Some might wonder whether these are due to consumer demand or just some weird R&D whim. But it is consumer demand that drives business these days and this is prominent in the potato industry as well, where the healthy aspect is becoming more important.
Salt is seen as a bad thing now and food processors are doing their best to reduce its levels. They are offering low-salt options for crisps and the acrylamide worry has seen the growth of baked crisps and other snack products as well. Now, for instance, Tyrrells offer a “Naked” variety which has no salt, while a company called Amaizin has a gluten-free corn tortilla chip with 0.8g of salt per 100g. There are others, too, who have hopped onto this bandwagon.
Equipment manufacturers have also come to the party and frying has become healthier as technology advances and alternatives to fried foods are also on offer. The rise in popularity of the baked potato chip is a case in point. Everyone knows there is always the need to further improve the nutritional profile of snacks if market share is not to be lost and, given that consumers seem to be continually on the lookout for alternatives to traditional savory snacks, this is where the innovative research and development teams come into play.
So, enjoy your Octopus or Mesquite Barbecue chips, chances are they are actually healthier than we all think…