Chip Shop Sea Salted Crisp Experiment
Am I promoting crisps on this website? No.... Chips maybe? No.... But I simply had to do a taste test and give you the results. Mainly to help enhance your awareness of ingredients, portion sizes and the addictiveness of certain foods! (yep, I am an addict too sometimes)
I would be lying if I said I never eat junk food. Those who know me well, know that I have a slight addiction to crisps. Plain old sea salted potato crisps to be precise. Either Kettle (my number one favourite), Tyrell’s or any supermarket house brand. So, admittedly, it was with some pleasure that I recently sacrificed my taste buds and brain to execute a taste test for you all. A crisp based taste test.
£1 for an odd sized bag
You see, while at my local petrol station I spotted a bag of crisps I had not seen before. Mc Coy’s ‘Chip -Shop-Sea-Salted’ flavoured crisps at £1 per bag.
The bag appeared slightly larger than the average individual small packets of crisps, yet nowhere near large enough to be called a sharing bag. Was this meant for one person, one really hungry person or a tiny family?
I’m not one for flavoured crisps really, mainly because I don’t like the ingredients in them. But this Chip-Shop-Sea-Salted flavour intrigued me. As far as I was aware chips from a chip shop sprinkled with sea salt contain, hmmm let's see.... potatoes, oil and sea salt. How did that differ, ingredient wise, from a normal bag of sea salted crisps which indeed also contain potatoes, oil and salt. Was this a marketing trick to sell salted crisps under a different name in a fancier looking slightly-larger-than-small bag?
The ingredient list
I turned the bag over, scanned the ingredients and was rather surprised (not really) by what I found. Thirteen ingredients in total, of which seven were used to create that ‘Sea Salted’ flavour. Seven!? How hard was it really to recreate the flavour of sea salt on a fried potato? Well, clearly quite hard.
For those interested in the ingredients please see the image. I’ll patiently await the day your local chip chop starts using maize and rice flour in their chips to make it taste more like McCoys Chip Chop Sea Salted flavoured crisps.
MSG, Natural flavourings and yeast extract
One of the (many) reasons I rarely opt for flavoured crisps is because most flavoured crisps will have some form of flavour enhancer added. Whether that is ‘yeast extract’, ‘natural flavouring’ or plain old ‘MSG’. These are all pretty much the same and have the same addictive effect on our brain. I know that those added ingredients will want to make me eat more and more. Once flavour enhancers enter my system it’s like a little person in my brain gets woken up and screams: ‘Just one more handful! Just one more handful! Just one more handful! Please, just one more handful!’ Yeast extract and the like are dangerous like that. The science out there may be conflicting and claim that flavour enhancers like MSG and yeast extract do us no harm whatsoever. I am of the opinion that such science is very very wrong.
Plate of yeast extract anyone?
Yeast extract or MSG in its many disguised forms aren't added for nothing. They taste of nothing, have no health benefits and don't particularly contribute to texture or colour for example. They've been added for two reasons specifically, to make even the worst processed food taste great and to get people to eat more of it. Most processed food contains some form of it and is therefore best avoided completely. Unless you wish to send your brain in binge mode daily of course. But let’s not digress and get back to the semi-small-but-not-large-enough-to-share chip-shop-sea-salted flavour bag of crisps.
Size does matter
Another striking fact about this oddly sized chip-shop-sea-salted flavour bag of crisp is that despite the bag looking nowhere near as big as a sharing bag (see the Tyrrell’s bag to the left on the photo), the weight of it is pretty much similar to a sharing bag. 140g versus 125g. A difference of a mere 15 grams!
A recipe for disaster if you ask me. Highly addictive ingredients disguised in a smaller bag which is actually a bigger bag than your eye and brain will ever let you admit.
I must buy and taste!
At that point I was so disgusted by this marketing ploy, I decided to buy the bag and do a taste test.
Firstly, I really needed to know what this Chip-Shop-Sea-Salted flavour was all about. Would it really taste that different compared to plain old sea salted crisps? Secondly I needed to find out how addictive they really were. The things I do for science….
I decided that no matter how horrible or nice tasting the crisps would be, I would stick to the recommended serving only. The recommended serving was 30 grams. This bag had a total of approximately 4 servings. I weighed the portion out with some very accurate kitchen scales and immediately saw that this meagre portion was never ever (EVER) going to satisfy my crisp taste buds.
Please see the bowl image to get an idea what 30 grams looked like. The crisps are flat, crinkle cut and heavy. Thirty grams added up to a mouse portion smaller than my appetite thought was acceptable.
Yet I proceeded the experiment and ate my 30 grams. I would be lying if I said these crisps didn’t taste of chip shop sea salted chips at all. In fact, as I munched away I started to experience images and aromas of a stodgy pile of chips wrapped in paper. There was even a hint of vinegar. These weren’t your average sea salted crisp. And I would be lying even more if I said they weren’t moorish. They were. Thirty grams was never ever going to cut it for a person with very little crisp self discipline.
I had double, well, almost triple the dose (all in the name of science). Which meant, the bag was definitely more empty than full after 1 sitting. Which meant that I had almost eaten a sharing sized bag of crisps in disguise of being a much smaller bag.
Interesting and disconcerting.
My stomach and brain on the other hand were not exactly satiated. I mean, what is 125 grams of quickly digestible carbs going to do in a belly that can easily handle about 400g of food in one sitting (think large plate of veg, rice, beans whatever).
The only conclusion I could draw from the experience was that I had much rather eaten a real portion of chips with seasalt from the chip shop than this deceptive looking bag of taste bud stimulators. It would have given me pretty much the same amount of calories, possibly less salt, certainly no flavour enhancers and probably more satisfaction.
Please don’t get me wrong, I am not promoting chips, plain crisps or anything here on this website. This experiment was purely executed to highlight the importance of scanning your ingredients, of staying away, far away from processed foods (apart from the odd bag of kettle crisps) and to make sure to check weight and portion sizes if….....IF you ever do opt to buy anything processed.