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A brief history of crisps - Crisp Secrets

Posted on May 17 2023, By: Mark Feehan

A brief history of crisps - Crisp Secrets

Crisps. For good reason, they are among the most beloved treats on the planet. Nothing beats the delightful crunch of a perfectly cooked crisp or the taste explosion that comes with each bite. But where did these tasty morsels come from? Who were the creative minds behind them as well? Explore the fascinating history of crisps to find out!


The Origins of Crisps

Unbelievably, potatoes have been a staple of many societies' diets for decades. We Brits and Irish adore them! However, it wasn't until the nineteenth century that the potato evolved into the delicious, crispy, salty snack that it is today. According to folklore, around 1853, George Crum worked as a chef at a resort in upstate New York. A customer once complained that his fried potatoes were mushy and overly thick. Crum sliced the potatoes as thinly as he could, crisped them in oil, and seasoned them with salt in a fit of fury. Customers requested potato crisps, thus they were created.


Crisps had become a popular snack item in both the United Kingdom and Ireland by the turn of the twentieth century. The following are some important dates and information from the early years of the crisp industry:


1913: The first commercial crisp factory in the UK is established by Frank Smith in Cricklewood, London.

1920: Tayto, the first Irish crisp company, is founded by Joe Murphy in Dublin.

1922: Smith's Crisps, one of the UK's most iconic crisp brands, is established in Leicester.

1932: Golden Wonder, another beloved UK crisp brand, is founded in Edinburgh.

1948: Hunky Dorys, a popular Irish crisp brand, is founded in Dublin.

1954: Walkers Crisps, which would go on to become the UK's biggest crisp brand, is founded by Henry Walker in Leicester.

1956: KP Snacks, which includes brands like Hula Hoops and McCoy's, is founded in Middlesex.

1962: Tayto acquires a crisp factory in Northern Ireland, expanding its reach across the island.

1972: Seabrook Crisps, a UK brand known for its distinctive ridged crisps, is founded in Bradford.

1980: Tyrrells Crisps, which uses locally sourced potatoes and boasts unique flavours like cider vinegar and black pepper, is founded in Herefordshire.

1991: The Real Crisps Company, a UK brand known for its hand-cooked crisps, is founded in Wales.

1994: SLABS, probably the world’s thickest crisp is created by Keith & Beege Robinson. Spanish potatoes from select farms are sourced, and sprinkled with seasonings that we love from the UK.  Flavours include, egg & chips, mellow sweet chilli, slightly salted, cheese & onion, salt & vinegar, & beef roast. 


These are just a few of the many crisp companies that have grown up in the United Kingdom and Ireland throughout the years. Each had an own flavour, trademark, and tale to tell.


Flavour and Innovation are on the rise.

The flavours and varieties of crisps accessible to consumers developed and evolved as the crisp industry grew and evolved. Some of the most well-known crisp flavours in the United Kingdom and Ireland are salt and vinegar, cheese and onion, prawn cocktail, and smokey bacon. Crisp manufacturers, however, did not stop there; they proceeded to experiment with new and fascinating flavours, ranging from roast beef and mustard to pickled onion and even chocolate flavoured crisps!


To stay ahead of the competition, crisp producers created innovative production methods and packaging in addition to new tastes. KP Snacks, for example, pioneered a novel frying technique in the 1960s that resulted in lighter, crunchier crisps. Walkers Crisps introduced a new form of packaging in the 1980s that helped keep their crisps fresher for longer.


However, flavoured powders were likely the most significant breakthrough in the crisp sector. These powders, which are manufactured from a combination of natural and artificial flavours, are sprinkled onto crisps during the manufacturing process to provide a blast of flavour with each mouthful. Some of the most popular flavouring powders in the UK are Worcestershire sauce, sour cream and chive, and beef and onion.


The Crispy Future

Crisps are now more popular than ever. It is estimated that approximately six billion packets of crisps are consumed in the UK alone each year. And, with new tastes and innovations being developed on a regular basis, the future of crisps looks promising.


However, with popularity comes responsibility. In recent years, the crisp sector has come under fire for its environmental impact, notably in terms of packaging waste. Many crisp manufacturers have responded by developing more environmentally friendly packaging solutions, such as compostable bags made of plant-based materials.


So, as we continue to enjoy our favourite crisp flavours, consider the influence our eating habits have on the world around us. Let us also recognise the several crisp companies that have offered us so much joy throughout the years.


Here is a list of some of the crisp brands and producers that were formed in the UK and Ireland in those early years:


UK brands of crisps:

  • Smith's Crisps (1922)
  • Golden Wonder (1932)
  • Walkers Crisps (1954)
  • KP Snacks (1956)
  • Seabrook Crisps (1972)
  • Tyrrells Crisps (1980)
  • The Real Crisps Company (1991)
  • Brannigans (1982)
  • Cofresh Snack Foods (1974)
  • Discos (1962)
  • KP Nuts (1948)
  • Phileas Fogg (1982)
  • Pom-Bear (1990)
  • Quavers (1968)
  • Skips (1974)
  • Space Raiders (1987)
  • Tudor Crisps (1947)


Irish brands of crisps:

  • Tayto (1920)
  • Hunky Dorys (1948)
  • King Crisps (1956)
  • O'Donnells Crisps (1987)
  • Keogh's Crisps (2011)
  • O'Keeffe's Crisps (1984)
  • King Cheese (1967)
  • Perri Crisps (1950)


Some of these brands have been forgotten, others continue to be stocked in shops all over the globe today


All of these producers, as well as many others, have played a part to the development of crisps. Each crisp manufacturer has made a unique contribution to this popular snack, ranging from the early days of commercial crisp manufacture to the most recent advancements in flavour and packaging.


We Love Crisps

At we produce brands such as Slabs, possibly the worlds thickest crisp.  This crisp range offers a crisp that always gets people talking, we’re proud to be classed as one the UK’s tastiest and unique crisp by many leading experts.  We have also hand-picked an exclusive international collection of crisp brands which customers say is one of the best they have ever seen in the UK.


Here are the exclusive brands we supply at We Love Crisps: (More coming soon)


  • PIJO


So the next time you reach for a packet of crisps, take a moment to appreciate the long and fascinating history behind this simple yet satisfying snack. And thank the many brilliant minds who have made it all possible.


Here’s to thinking differently about crisps

We deliver snack boxes direct to your home, pubs, hotels, farm shops, & deli’s.  Order a new crisp experience through today!