02 May 2012

A Tale of Two Taytos: The Origins of Flavoured Crisps

[Disclaimer: I apologize for using the word crisp and chip interchangeably...but I am referring to the wonderful potato product that has been sliced thinly, deep fried, and packaged in bags...get it?] 

Chips or crisps, either way you slice it, it's still made of potatoes and enjoyed all over the world. It comes deep fried or baked, all sorts of shapes and sizes, in bags and tubes.

Now, the potato chip originated in New York or something...but that's not what I'm concerned about today. I'm more concerned with what actually makes crisps taste good: the seasonings! And where was the first flavoured crisp produce? Well, Ireland of course!

For years after the invention of the potato chip in the 1850s, chip lovers had to put up with plain chips. I know... such a sad life eh? No sweet chili, or dill pickle, no all-dressed? Taste-buds were so neglected!

But then, there was one man, an Irish man (obviously, cause they're experts in the field of potato eating), who thought "How can I make this crunchy, deep fried potatoe bigger and better than before?" [okay, maybe he didn't say that.. but lets just imagine.] Actually, I read that it was his dislike of the only flavour available - salt, which came in a packet inside the bag of crisps which you had to "sprinkle" on yourself. Think, shake 'n' bake, but more sprinkle and eat. Doesn't have the same ring to it does it? A change was needed! Someone needed to come along and save crisps addicts from around the world!

So who was this Irish lad? Joe 'Spud' Murphy

The story begins in Dublin. 
The year 1954. 
Flavour that started it all - Cheese and Onion. 

Mr. 'Spud' Murphy, an entrepreneur looking for gaps in the market, started a snackfood company, Tayto, in just two rented rooms off Moore Street, with initial set up costs of £500. His employees included himself, and 8 others, and the use of a single van. One of his employees, Seamus Burke, was in charge with creating a new flavour for Murphy's empire, and the flavour of choice: Cheese and Onion.

mmm cheese and onion.... probably the most popular and traditional flavoured crisp in Ireland and the UK.

Now, there's lots of back story involved in the start of Tayto Inc. But, it's interesting to know that Tayto crisps used to be sold for 4 pence per bag. Incredible! They even made tin boxes that contained 18 bags of crisps which sold for 4 shillings. Bags were hand-glued with a tiny paintbrush to guarantee Tayto's trademark freshness. Tayto quickly became Ireland's favourite crisp manufacturer, and is still considered a standard today.

BUT... there's a twist to this story folks...

Wait... did Tayto change their packaging or something? NOPE! What you're looking at is in fact, another Tayto crisps manufacturer, but owned by a separate entity!

You know how I said Tayto was created by Mr. Murphy? Well, in 1956, another man by the name of Thomas Hutchinson came along and decided to create a wee crisp empire of his own, but in Northern Ireland!

To make a long story short - in 1955, Mr. Hutchinson's bought a castle in Tandragee, County Armagh, Northern Ireland a.k.a still Ireland (but for the purposes of this explanation I'd like to make the separation from the Republic without calling it the UK... oh the trouble I could get into! shh). Anyway, he bought this castle and also bought the licence for use of the name and recipes from our friend Spud Murphy from the South! Until I actually started researching Tayto crisps, I had no idea that the Northern Irish version of Tayto was actually something 'bought' from the south. No where on the NI Tayto site does it mention buying the licence from Mr. Murphy, it's not until I did a bit of googling that I figured it out! Shocking.

Anyway, the Hutchinson's family made quite the empire for themselves with Tayto Castle, and you can even tour it

So, it's really hard for me to give a definitive title to who really made crisps into what they are today because there's also many British companies (like Walkers) to take into consideration. If I'm not mistaken, Walkers helped produce that whole "Salt 'n' Shake" business...

Anyway, there are tons and tons of crisp flavours out there, and I'd say that the Irish and the British sure take the cake when it comes to having quite the variety. Though I do love my Dill Pickle from back home in Canada... yum...

So that's that. There's more to the story of crisps and their flavours, etc... but I must say, both Taytos are relatively the same. I'm not even sure there's quite a difference... perhaps I'll just have to eat both crisps at the same time in the future...

One thing is for sure though, flavoured crisps first started in Ireland, and that's all that matters...

Now, all this talk of crisps has made me a bit peckish... excuse me...

Keep Crunchin'!


No comments:

Post a Comment