Bring in the Batch-fried Chips
Batch-fried appear to have been one of the beneficiaries of consumers staying home during the Covid-19 pandemic, reports Jonathan Thomas
The popularity of batch-fried chips remains high across many western markets, having benefited from the growth in consumer demand for more premium forms of chips and crisps. Many leading suppliers in markets such as the US and the UK reported increased sales during the recent lockdowns imposed due to Covid-19, although it remains too early to say whether this will be sustained as the world emerges from the effects of the pandemic. Although manufacturers continue to innovate on health grounds, experimentation with flavors appears to be a significant market driver at present. The main difference between batch-fried chips and their more regular alternatives lies in cooking methods. Regular potato crisps and chips are manufactured via a process termed ‘continuous fry’, i.e. being fried on a conveyor belt as they move through hot oil which remains at a constant temperature. In contrast, a process known as batch cooking is used for batch-fried, which has been described as a more old-fashioned cooking method used prior to the 1920s and results in products which are harder and crunchier than standard varieties. In addition, the process also caramelizes the chips to a deeper and more distinctive color.
The batch-frying process is not without its own challenges, however. Fluctuations in temperature risk creating heat damage to the oil, while batch-style products tend to absorb up to 35% of the frying oil (which is slightly lower than regular varieties produced via a continuous system). The cooking process also increases the possibility of accumulations of solids and metals from the foods being fried, a factor which can also have a negative effect upon the lifespan of manufacturing products.
The Health & Nutritional Angle
Opinions differ concerning the health qualities of batch fried chips compared with their standard potato equivalents. It is worth noting that the health and nutritional appeal of many types of chips have been improved in recent years, largely via reformulation by leading manufacturers. Typically, this has taken the form of reducing levels of saturated fats and/or sodium, as well as removing artificial ingredients and additives such as MSG. One of the healthiest products available in the US market are batch fried chips made from olive oil, which are manufactured by Utz and appear under its Good Health brand. These contain just 7g of fat and 140 calories per serving, as well as 45mg of sodium. Utz also manufacturers batch fried chips made using avocado, coconut, sunflower and safflower oil. Despite these efforts by manufacturers and brand owners, salted snacks such as potato chips still suffer from a somewhat negative image in terms of health. According to some food blogs and reviews, batch fried chips are considered an improvement from standard potato equivalents, on the grounds that their ‘hand-cooked’ or artisanal nature automatically infers superior nutritional qualities. However, other commentators feel that batch fried chips are inherently greasy (an effect of their cooking method), while for some, they will always be viewed as an unhealthy snack compared with foods such as fresh fruit, nuts, savory biscuits, etc. To illustrate the nutritional differences between batch fried and mainstream potato chips, the following table presents a comparison between two leading UK brands, namely Kettle Chips and Walkers Crisps. The nutritional information presented below is for a 50g bag of lightly or ready salted crisps – as can be seen, calories levels are higher for the Walkers brand. Although the amounts of carbohydrates and protein are broadly comparable, the Walkers crisps contain a higher level of fat (16g vs 13g), while fiber levels are higher for the Kettle brand.
Table 1: Nutritional Comparison of Kettle v Mainstream Potato Crisps, UK
Kettle Chips Lightly Salted (50g) – Walkers Ready Salted Grab Bag Crisps (50g)
Calories 233 263
Grammes of carbohydrates 25.8 25.8
Grammes of protein 3.2 3.1
Grammes of fat 13.0 16.0
Grammes of fibre 3.0 2.2
Source: Company websites
For the Kettle-branded chips, fats accounted for over half (51.5%) of total calories in the 50g bag. Of the remainder, carbohydrates accounted for almost 43% and protein for nearly 6%. Despite this apparent dominance of fats, some batch fried chips are available in markets such as the US with reduced or lower fat levels. The Kettle range in the US contains chips marketed as containing 40% less fats than standard varieties, as well as 20 fewer calories per serving. Another noteworthy US supplier is Wire Snacks, whose range features batch fried chips with reduced fat levels in flavors such as Original and Barbecue. These contain 40% less fats than standard chips, as well as no MSG or artificial preservatives and lower salt levels.
Manufacturers of batch chips have also been making efforts to appeal to health-conscious consumers on other grounds. One notable example took place in the UK market at the start of 2020, when the Kettle Chips range was extended with a new variety aimed at a vegan audience. Named ‘Sheese & Red Onion’, it was marketed as an alternative to Cheese & Onion and was launched to mark Veganuary, i.e. when people are encouraged to follow a vegan diet during the month of January. Between 2014 and 2019, the number of vegans in the UK quadrupled to around 600,000, or approximately 1.2% of the total population.
You can read the rest of this article in the September – October Issue of Potato Processing International magazine, which you can access by clicking here.