Thursday, 18 September 2014

The crisp revolution...

I remember a time when crisps came in one flavour – plain. Of course they weren’t called plain because they had no need of a name as they were the only crisps available. They came with a little blue packet of salt that you shook onto your crisps which were often soggy as they came in paper packets. This was before ‘Ready Salted Crisps’ came along and when they arrived they caused something of a sensation.

Golden Wonder were first to introduce a flavoured crisp with cheese and onion in the 1960s. I remember it well and suddenly cheese and onion were the only crisps worth eating. At around this time the packaging improved too and suddenly crisps were both crisp and flavoured!

It was a crisp revolution at thruppence (1.25 pence) a bag.

Suddenly the floodgates were opened and every Smith, Walker, and Golden Wonder began to search for the perfect flavour for their crisps. They tried just about everything and each were greeted by 'oohs' and 'ahhs' by me and my schoolboy chums. The smokiness of smokey bacon was a revelation, my first taste of seafood was a prawn cocktail crisp, and when Smith's came out with salt and vinegar I thought that I tasted it all.

How wrong I was.

With only a handful of flavours the crisp industry had a 'gentleman's' agreement that ready-salted crisps were sold in dark blue packets, salt and vinegar in light blue packets, and cheese and onion in green. This all changed though when Walkers decided to throw the cat flavour among the pigeons flavour in the 80s and changed the colour of their packets to blue for cheese and onion and green for salt and vinegar. It still confuses me to this day – cheese and onion is definitely green.

I went off salt and vinegar pretty quickly and can't stand them to this day.

During the 60s and 70s, when I was growing up, the crisp market became increasingly competitive and the flavours more and more exotic including tomato ketchup, Worcester sauce, Branston pickle and sausage, even hedgehog – yes hedgehog.

Today crisps come in just about every flavour available and handmade kettle chips are all the rage. Lamb and mint sauce, maple-smoked barbecue, blue stilton, port and cranberry, sage and thyme, organic, beetroot, carrot, parsnip – you name you can get it.

Here’s just a few on the list. Feel free to pick your favourite:

Cheese & Onion
Roast Chicken
Prawn Cocktail
Ready Salted
Salt & Vinegar
Pickled Onion
Smoky Bacon
Tomato Ketchup
Worcester Sauce
Cheddar Cheese & Bacon
Sour Cream & Chive
Ranch Raccoon
Sizzling Steak Fajita
Pulled Pork in a Sticky BBQ sauce
Cheesy Beans on Toast
Chip Shop Chicken Curry
Hot Dog with Tomato Ketchup
Baked Bean  
Baked Ham & Mustard
Beef & Onion
Cheese & Branston Pickle
Cheese & Chive
Chicken Tikka
Ham & Mustard
Jamaican Jerky Chicken
Lamb Curry
Lamb & Mint Sauce
Roast Gammon
Roast Turkey & Stuffing
Spicy Chilli
Spicy Mango Chutney
Spring Onion
Steak & Onion
Toasted Cheese
Vanilla essence
Sour Cream & Spring Onion
Lincolnshire Sausage & Brown Sauce
Birmingham Chicken Balti

I won’t go on, but I could.


  1. Lynda Henderson on fB
    We have Cheesy garlic bread and Sriracha (though we call them chips as you know and Sweet Potato. Those are made out of sweet potatoes and you can also get them flavoured. What will they think of next??

  2. Tim Preston on FB
    Do you remember the joke about Toto in Fantasy Island?

    Tim Preston on FB
    Blimey - what a technical breakthrough, Ready Salted was

    1. Andrew Height
      I don't know that joke Tim.

    2. Tim Preston on FB
      It's an old one and I can't remember it too well but for whatever reason Toto gets to be locked in a room with a year's supply of his favourite flavour crisps - cheese and onion. However, when the year is over, he runs out of the room shouting "de plain, de plain!" ---- course you have to remember that was his catch phrase in Fantasy Island

  3. Andrew Height
    Sweet flavored crisps are next I believe. Anyone for candyfloss flavour.

    1. Tim Preston on FB
      Cheese and Onion are my favourite I love saturating myself with all those unnaturally smelly E numbers -)

    2. Andrew Height
      I may remember that Tim... unfortunately

  4. Paul Whitehouse on FB
    The subject is a particular passion of mine...well done Andrew for raising it. Reason is I could happily live on just crisps and nothing else. IMHO there is no better flavour than plain especially when washed down with a gorgeous beer. Even in the world of Tyrells, kettle-chips and the huge variety of stupid flavours, good old Walkers ready salted take some beating, And for the record, back in the day when only Walkers, Golden Wonder and Smiths existed, there was never any contest...Walkers were the only crisp worth crunching.
    If I HAD too choose a flavour even from today's rich smorgasbord, cheese and onion would win hands down. Prawn cocktail is just wrong...who wants to eat crisps which taste of minge?
    Also for the record, I can and occasionally do, eat crisps for breakfast....not a problem.

    1. Andrew Height
      A fine commentary Paul, and one I totally agree with.

  5. Alison Kirkham Eaton on FB
    Walkers cheese and onion are the only crisps that should ever be placed between a slice of bread

  6. Cloe Fyne on FB
    Snaps tomato. The ones with the croc on the front. Don't often see me these days, just in wilko and smaller newsagents. Always remind me of the time I locked the car with the keys in it when we lived in dereydown'

    Cloe Fyne
    Derrydown rather! Was eating a bag at the time! Lol

  7. Emma Cholmondeley on FB
    Ahhhhh Mark likes those Cloe. I used to love those Burtons Fish and Chips and roast beef Monster Munch!!!!

  8. Cloe Fyne on GB
    Ha ha fish and chips! Reminds me of nan and granddad.

    1. Andrew Height
      I will remain a 'plain' man until the day I pass. Mind you in two words Hula Hoops.

    2. Cloe Fyne on FB
      Mmmmm love hula hoops! Great fora hangover . As are Worcester sauce French fries

    3. Andrew Height
      I raise you chipsticks

  9. Sarah Whateley on FB

    1. Andrew Height
      Any flavour you like.

  10. Tim Preston on FB
    You mean potato chips?

  11. Probably Tim. The Americans did invent them.

  12. Sarah Whateley on FB
    Vanilla essence flavour crisps? Wow, never knew they existed! I'm a salt & vinegar girl all the way.

    1. Andrew Height
      You'll be eating them tomorrow?

  13. Pete Wright on FB
    Potato puffs. Legendary.

  14. Gloria Brown on FB
    They should bring potato puffs back

    1. Andrew Height
      I hear that you can still get potato puffs at Farmfoods.

  15. Gloria Brown on FB
    Plain with the salt wrapped in dark blue paper, but before that potato puffs!