Frying high!

Next time you go to watch a West End show you might want to buy a bag of crisps.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 13th July 2012, 9:19 am

If it’s an Andrew Lloyd Webber theatre you’ll find yourself nibbling on award-winning Yorkshire Crisps - produced just down the road at Wales Bar.

They are hand cooked in a small factory on the Waleswood Industrial Estate and exported around the world.

Marketing manager Tim Wheatley said: “We supply crisps to all of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s theatres and to Harvey Nicholls and John Lewis.”

“We’ve also just won a contract to supply 25g bags to Emirates Airlines.”

The crisps, which are mainly supplied in unique 100g drums, are a premium product which trade on their Yorkshire links.

The potatoes are grown on various farms in the Yorkshire Wolds and all of the drums, depending on the flavour, have a picture of a different Yorkshire scene, with a brief description of it.

For instance, the sweet chilli and lime flavour features the Magna Science Centre in Rotherham.

But how do those softie Southerners take to crisps from up north?

“We find the Yorkshire branding sells well. Yorkshire has an earthy credibility to it,” said Tim.

It remains true to its county roots by sourcing its drums and packets from Bradford and its boxes from Keighley.

The company, set up in 2005 by Sheffield businessman Ashley Turner, is bucking the recession, with turnover up 30 per cent for the first six months of this year.

It has an annual turnover of £1.4m in what is a fiercely competitive market.

Yorkshire Crisps’ core business is in the UK independent sector, although it supplies to Waitrose and Yorkshire supermarket chain Morrisons, and will be going into Sainsbury’s in September.

It supplies crisps to pubs, clubs, hotels and to Leeds Bradford Airport.

A quarter of what it produces goes into luxury hampers and another quarter is exported all over Europe, Dubai, Kuwait, Hong Kong and Singapore.

The crisps are hand-cooked in sunflower oil for seven minutes and have the natural flavourings added as they go through a drum.

Tim said: “We do 11 flavours, starting with Nowt On, which is completely plain. The most popular flavour is the natural sea salt everywhere except Yorkshire, where it’s the Henderson’s Relish flavour.”

From the potatoes coming in still with their soil on, to the finished crisps being packed into drums, takes about 15 minutes.

The staff have the lucky task of taste-testing the crisps while they are still slightly warm.

They also make parsnip crisps which are flavoured with black pepper.

Other flavours include Chardonnay wine vinegar, sweet chilli and lime (introduced because Tim’s children said everyone else was producing chilli flavour so why didn’t they?), and roast lamb and mint.

The latter was a bit controversial because Yorkshire Crisps are all suitable for vegetarians, who they didn’t want to put off.

“We wondered how well it would go down but it’s been very successful,” said Tim.

Crisps are also supplied under the labels of Friendchips for a German company, and The Doormen Crisps for a Swindon business.

Tim said they go through 15 tons of potatoes a week and produce three million bags of crisps. Not bad for a small workforce of 11.

As well as the drums, which retail for about £2, they make 40g standard size packets for 75p and a larger 150g packet for £1.75.

The Henderson’s and lamb and mint flavours have won awards, and Yorkshire Crisps has been named exporter of the year by the Original Food Group and won snack product of the year in the Caterer magazine.

Seems like that earthy credibility is serving them well.