In 2018, the global crisp market was worth some $28 billion US dollars. Apparently, it’ll hit $34 billion by 2023.
Clearly, us humans like the humble potato chip (that’s for you American readers). But how the hell do you meet such demand? Let’s have a greasy gander.
The Making of Crisps (Potato Chips)
Despite the wild abundance of crisps highlighted above, at first the food was only available in restaurants (more on that further below). But in the 20th century mass production became available.
That started from 1910 onwards, with flavoured varieties becoming popular from the 1950s.
Weirdly enough, to show how “refined” this whole greasy industry has become, crisps packets weren’t around at first.
If you wanted some of the snack, you’d have to go to a market and you’d find them sold in tins. Or you’d scoop them out of a giant barrel and have them in a bag (except the latter method ensured the ones at the bottom went a bit stale).
These days they’re run through a continuous process you can see in the above video – blasted through a vat of boiling oil and dried on vast conveyor belts. They’re then dumped into those rustling packets – most of which aren’t recyclable, of course.
The vast majority of crisp packets are made from metallised plastic film, with the shiny bit inside a form of plastic.
We couldn’t find any statistics on just how much crisp packet waste ends up in the environment each year, presumably because it’s impossible to determine.
Here in the UK, Walkers Crisps started a recycling scheme in late 2018 to address the issue. After three months, half a million empty packets were returned.
These businesses are being forced to make a change due to changing public attitudes, it’s just a shame they all had a 50+ year period to scott-free demolish the environment with single-use plastics.
But it’s worth noting the journey of the crisp. Whilst festering in some individual’s bowels as waste, its afterlife continues in the form of its home – a mini-plastic carrier bag that’ll linger on this Earth for centuries clogging waterways and wildlife.
Worth keeping in mind, non? At the very least, make your bloody own!
The History of Crisps
Anyway, enough environmental talk! How did the humble crisp come about?
There’s an urban legend about it. Apparently, American chef George Crum grew irritated by a complaining customer on 24th August of 1853.
After his potato dish was returned for the umpteenth time, Crum hacked the spuds up into ultra-thin slices and over-salted the product. He expected to disgust his customer. But the individual ended up loving the bloody things.
Thusly, a snack food legend was born!
Whether that’s true or not is unclear, as there are inklings a cookbook called The Cook’s Oracle from 1817. The work from England contains the first recipe – apparently.
Whatever, everyone now bloody loves the things. And America sure has a massive hankering for potato chips, even if we all know they’re about as good for you as a punch to the face.
The Stackable Kind
To wrap up this potato post, let’s there’s also the stackable sorts – in England, the Pringle brand is most famous there.
Again, it’s an examination of a colossal industry in action. Millions of potatoes are sourced and shredded through those machines, before being dumped in packaging.
As consumers, it’s easy to ignore the extent of the process everything goes through.
And although we intended this feature to be a daft and fun piece, it turned into yet another reminder of how big business capitalism is destroying the natural world. Ho bloody hum.