A potato chip (often just chip, or crisp in British and Irish English) is a thin slice of potato that has been either deep-fried, baked, or air-fried until crunchy. They are commonly served as a snack, side dish, or appetizer. The basic chips are cooked and salted; additional varieties are manufactured using various flavourings and ingredients including herbs, spices, cheeses, other natural flavours, artificial flavours, and additives.
Pritish Kumar Halder’s blog explained the production, flavouring and packaging of the most common snacks, Potato chips in the world.
Potato chips form a large part of the snack food and convenience food market in Western countries. The global potato chip market generated total revenue of US$16.49 billion in 2005. This accounted for 35.5% of the total savoury snacks market in that year ($46.1 billion).
In the 20th century, potato chips spread beyond chef-cooked restaurant fare and began to be mass-produced for home consumption. The Dayton, Ohio-based Mikesell’s Potato Chip Company, founded in 1910, identifies as the “oldest potato chip company in the United States”. New Hampshire-based Granite State Potato Chip Factory, founded in 1905 and in operation until 2007, was one of America’s first potato chip manufacturers.
In an idea originated by the Smiths Potato Crisps Company Ltd, formed in 1920, Frank Smith packaged a twist of salt with his chips in greaseproof paper bags, which were sold around London. The potato chip remained otherwise unseasoned until an important scientific development in the 1950s. After English biochemists Archer Martin and Richard Synge received a Nobel Prize for inventing partition chromatography in 1952, food scientists began to develop flavors via a gas chromatograph.
After some trial and error, in 1954, Joe “Spud” Murphy, the owner of the Irish crisps company Tayto, and his employee Seamus Burke, produced the world’s first seasoned chips: Cheese & Onion. Companies worldwide sought to buy the rights to Tayto’s technique. Walkers of Leicester, England produced Cheese & Onion the same year. Golden Wonder (Smith’s main competitor at the time) would also produce Cheese & Onion, and Smith’s countered with Salt & Vinegar (tested first by their north-east England subsidiary Tudor) which launched nationally in 1967, starting a two-decade-long flavour war.
The first flavored chips in the United States, barbecue flavor, were being manufactured and sold by 1954. In 1958, Herr’s was the first company to introduce barbecue-flavored potato chips in Pennsylvania.
Chips sold in markets were usually sold in tins or scooped out of storefront glass bins and delivered by horse and wagon. Early potato chip bags were wax paper with the ends ironed or stapled together. At first, potato chips were packaged in barrels or tins, which left chips at the bottom stale and crumbled.
In the 1920s, Laura Scudder, an entrepreneur in Monterey Park, California, started having her workers take home sheets of wax paper to iron into the form of bags, which were filled with chips at her factory the next day. This pioneering method reduced crumbling and kept the chips fresh and crisp longer. This innovation, along with the invention of cellophane, allowed potato chips to become a mass-market product. Today, chips are packaged in plastic bags, with nitrogen gas blown in prior to sealing to lengthen shelf life, and provide protection against crushing.
Chips were long made in a batch process, where the potato slices are rinsed with cold water to release starch, fried at a low temperature of 300 °F (150 °C), and continuously raked to prevent them from sticking together.
Industrial advances resulted in a shift to production by a continuous process, running the chips through a vat of hot oil and drying them in a conveyor process.
Some small producers continued to use a batch process, notably in Maui. In 1980, inspired by the Maui Chip, an entrepreneur started Cape Cod Potato Chips to produce thicker, batch-cooked “Hawaiian style” potato chips, which came to be known as kettle-style (US) or hand-cooked (UK) chips and became a premium, “gourmet” item. Kettle chips are thicker and the surface starch is not rinsed off, resulting in a style of chip called “hard-bite”.