Review of "Smiths crisps"
I'm stuck in the house waiting for Telewest to come and install my broadband so I thought I'd take advantage of this time to stuff my face and say goodbye to dial up, hopefully forevever. Scanning the crisp stand of my local independent corner shop this morning, I spotted these beef flavoured square crisps. The packet has new emblazoned all over it and always on the look out for a good crisp I bought a couple of packets. Yes, that's right, two. I was hungry and well you know they are only wee .....I was surprised to note that they are now made by Walkers. Not knowing much about changes in the crisp industry I had thought that Smiths crisps was still on the go in the UK. For those of you interested, here is why Square crisps are now made by Walkers .....
Whatever happened to Smiths?Smiths crisps were the first proper crisp manufacturers in Britain. In 1920, Frank Smith heard about this new way of eating potatoes (from a Frenchman) and set up a business in his garage making crisps. Apparantly, his wife scrubbed, peeled and fried the potatoes with Frank packaging them in a grease proof bag and selling them from a bike around London.
Frank also introduced the idea of seasoning crisps with salt, adding a small blue sachet to the bag. Luckily for us his idea of using twisted and dried dog foreskin dipped in aspic (i kid you not) to add a savoury flavour, was abandoned!
Walkers crisps has a similar distinguished history, formed in London a few years later than Smiths by a man almost bankrupted by the war rationing on meat. Potatoes were not rationed and this seemed the ideal fledgling product.For many years Smiths held the top spot, alongside Golden Wonder in the UK crisp market. However, an aggressive marketing campaign followed by the innovative practise of selling crisps direct to shops (bypassing the wholesalers/cash n carry) pushed Walkers into the top spot in the early 1990s.
No doubt this was aided by the massive global marketing power of Pepsi co, who took over Walkers and Smiths crisps in 1989. The Walkers meger with Smiths resulted in a staggering increase in Walker's product lines - to over 400! That's a lot of snacking and a huge share of the market for Walkers.The packaging
The beefy flavour bag is an unappealing shade of brown with squares all over it. To me it is reminiscent of the graph paper we used at school! The word "Square" is emblazoned in white and blue across the front with "Potato Snacks" and "Beefy Flavour" in smaller letters. The bags I bought also had the word "New" in large type in the top right hand corner, though it would appear the Beefy flavour has been around for sometime.The back of the bag has the words "The world has turned ...." and then a picture of a muscly man holding up dumb bells made of two square crisps. Underneath the picture are the words "... at Muscle Beach, California". Now I'm looking at this for the first time as I type and I can't stop laughing. How bizarre is that?
Anyway, the back of the bag also has the words "33% less fat*" with the asterix pointing to the small type at the bottom stating "33% less fat on average compared to standard Walkers crisps". The usual nutritional information and ingredients are also listed as well as the phrase "suitable for vegetarians".
Beefy crisps - suitable for vegetarians?As a lifelong veggie, it has never failed to amaze me that people often point to whatever I'm eating, usually meat flavoured crisps, and proclaim "should you be eating that?" Winds me up no end! The telling phrase in this case is "Beefy flavour" .... hmmm doesn't exactly scream expensive ingredients.
I double checked with the Walkers site and a veggie resource site and indeed Walkers beefy flavour crisps are suitable for vegetarians. Apparantly, for a while, Walkers were using non-vegetarian cheese in their cheese and onion flavouring but they seem to be taking the veggie issue seriously and trying hard to vegetarianise (is that a word?) their snack products. If you are a strict veggie or have other dietary concerns one word of advise is to keep checking with the manufacturers, easy these days on the Internet. Recipes are constantly tweaked, not only for taste but due to availability/cheapness of ingredients - worth bearing in mind.
The AromaOn opening the bag you are greeted with the usual burst of air, favoured by crisp manufacturers these days to prevent breakage and crumbling during transit. The initial aroma is not unlike the cat food I feed my cat and this is really quite off putting. I guess it smells faintly beefy but in a very artificial, processed way. But i did buy two bags so .....
AppearanceThe crisps themselves are dissapointly un-uniform. I expect my processed, factory food to look perfect and well .... processed but these "squares" are all over the place. Remember, I had two bags so this is not an isolated phenomenon. The crisps are roughly square, about an inch on each side, with some flat and perfect but many more bent over or folded. Some of this crisps also have a bubbly texture to the surface and there is quite a lot of powdery flavouring on them for a thin crisp.
TasteActually, not bad, not bad at all. They taste similar to most beef flavoured crisps - quite salty and savoury. The initial taste is not overly strong but there are variations between individual crisps. The folded over squares are definately stronger than their perfect cousin - the flat square. There is a residual aftertaste that really is not that pleasant. It reminded me of beef and tomato flavoured pot noodles and I wasn't surprised to read in the ingredients list that the beefy flavouring is mainly monosodium glutamate.
The AdvantagesThey are relatively cheap. I bought mine for 30p in the local corner shop. They are also an unusual crisp, satisfying in their own way. For people who like beef flavoured crisps but aren't too keen on "real" crisps they are ideal - made entirely from processed potato. The flavour does not knock you out and you don't end up with powdery fingers! They are suitable for veggies (at time of writing) and have 33% less fat than Walkers standard crisps.
The DisadvantagesThe bag is quite small - only 25mg - and with the protective air cushioning you don't end up with a huge amount of crisps. The initial smell is off putting, as I said, a bit like cat food. The folded over and bent crisps are not attractive and taste inferior to the perfect square ones.
Despite having 33% less fat than Walkers standard crisps they are an unhealthy option (looks guiltily at two empty bags on desk). They contain a large amount of fat and salt. Additionally, I haven't seen these anywhere else in the city and might be hard to get hold of in your area.
OverallI would buy these at least once to try. They are relatively unusual and not unpleasant making a reasonable snack. If you are a fan of beef flavoured crisps or potato snacks in general you might be pleasantly surprised. I would buy them again but not on a regular basis. They would not make my top 10 crisps list!
Nutritional Info (per bag)Energy: 105kcal
(saturated fat) 2.3g
Walkers Snack Foods Ltd
PO Box 23
Product Information : Smiths crisps
Manufacturer's product description
Listed on Ciao since: 22/08/2002