Venkat Raman –
Necessity it has been said, is the Mother of Invention.
True to this adage, an international courier company was born when an architect, on a flight to deliver a tender document thought that there should be better way to do so, a social website came into being to allow hundreds of millions of people to share their thoughts and images online and the fast food business became a rage worldwide because of one’s experiment with ‘open kitchen’ model.
The world is full of success stories, not necessarily on invention alone but on improvisation.
‘Proper Crisps’ could be a good example of the latter.
As the saying goes, the taste for ‘real food’ was the starting point for this Nelson based company to make its way to the premier shelves of almost all major supermarkets and other retail stores around New Zealand.
Says Tina-Maree Thomas, National Sales & Marketing Manager of Proper Snacks Limited, “We were tired of settling for over processed, artificially flavoured potato chips and hence we decided to make our own.”
But even wafer thin crisps do not come out overnight. Ned and Mina Smith, who started it all, embarked on a world tour in 2007 in a quest to find out how to make a truly outstanding crisp. “When we came back to New Zealand we set about sourcing the finest South Island Agria potatoes, primarily from the same third generation South Island Temuka farmer. We use only the finest quality imported High Oleic Sunflower Oil and Marlborough Sea Salt from Lake Grassmere New Zealand. We figured out how to make great crisps using a traditional crisp fryer that we found while travelling throughout the United States of America,” Mr Smith said.
Don’t say Chips
They established a small factory in the hills of Upper Moutere in Nelson and began experimenting with various types before they arrived at a product which would pass the test of time and of course the market.
Because they go through an intense process of personalised production, the products of the company came to be known as ‘crisps’ rather than ‘chips.’
“That is the distinction between hand-cooked crisps and mass-produced chips,” Mr Smith said.
New Zealanders are keen ‘DIY’ people except in cooking, in which the ‘Do It Yourself’ spirit somehow is replaced by instant food including frozen meat, vegetables and even the ubiquitous masala. The process of making Proper Crisps as explained by Ms Thomas, brings with it a unique taste even in its narration.
“We hand sort, trim and stir our crisps in small batches. After they are hand-stirred and cooked, we centrifuge them to remove any excess oil. They are then inspected to meet our standards and sent on for a sprinkle of natural flavours before being put into the bag. Finally, they are delivered fresh to the market place,” she said.
What makes these crisps ‘Pure’ is that they are 100% Natural.
“There are compromises. The entire artisan selection is free from Gluten, Dairy, Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) and Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO). Every product is Vegan friendly,” Ms Thomas said.
Commencing with ‘Marlborough Sea Salt’ as the original flavour, ‘Proper Snacks Limited;’ today boasts of three more natural flavours with the ‘Natural’ promise.
They include ‘Rosemary and Thyme,’ ‘Smoked Paprika’ and ‘Cider Vinegar and ‘Sea Salt.’
That was when Ms Smith began her ‘garden invasion.’
Ms Thomas said, “While developing ‘Rosemary & Thyme’ crisps, Mina literally raided her garden, drying and rubbing the herbs and sprinkling them on our crisps much like her French grandmother used to do when making her homemade crisps. Later, after much thought, we decided on adding another, totally different flavour profile- Sweet Smoked Paprika from Spain. These mature sweet bell peppers are naturally and slowly dried over hot smoked oak chips for weeks, our take on the popular BBQ flavour. Then, last but not least, we have worked without compromise to create a Salt and Vinegar with no nasty’s or numbers. Our new Apple Cider Vinegar and Sea Salt- has a moreish rich apple cider taste with a subtle (underlying) zing.”
There were some interesting nicknames that were popular around the Crisp family.
They were ‘Mr & Mrs Head Potato’ (Ned and Mina Smith), ‘General Potato Head’ (James Bowyer, General Manager), ‘Sales & Marketing Potato Head’ (Tina-Maree Thomas) and ‘Top of the Ops’ (Aaron Grooby) and ‘Head Honcho’ (Troy Appleton, Production Manager).
The ‘Potato Heads’ have had to change their names since the company added the ‘Kumara Crisp’ to its range recently.