Next Stop: 10 Acre Village

Crisps Mini-Series: 10 Acre

This is the first instalment of my mini-series focussing on Crisps.

Anyone that has been following my Food Adventures will know that I am a big fan of the crisps category; it’s fun, fast paced, innovative and driven by one overarching factor: taste. This was my favourite, and most valuable, category as a Retail Buyer and I had to keep my ear close to the ground with new product developments, competitor activity and sales driving initiatives. For an ambient product, crisps, have a relatively short shelf-life and therefore it was of utmost importance for me that the rate of sale is high and I wasn’t left with any dusty packets.

The market has undergone a change in the last five years as the consumer base has been made to feel increasingly guilty for eating foods that they enjoy and crisps are an easy target. Therefore suppliers have worked tirelessly to find the golden egg and produce a great tasting crisp that ticks a number of boxes for the health-conscious, calorie counters. In my opinion, the big boys have failed at this and only managed to produce different flavours of cardboard that aren’t going to satisfy anybody craving a hunger fix. This has led to the growth of a, still relatively, new sub-sector: popcorn. This mini-series is all about crisps and not the whole snacking category but it is worth noting that the growth of brands like Propercorn have chipped (unintentional pun I promise!) away at the share held by potato crisps in the aisle and this trend doesn’t appear likely to slow down any time soon. A fact that demonstrates this seismic shift is that, in the last couple of weeks, Propercorn have been named as branded Snacks Supplier of the Year in 2015 by The Grocer.

So potato crisps have to react…

The artisanal world of crisps has exploded making it a very saturated market so the need for differentiation and something that allows your product to raise its head above the parapet is key. The mainstream market is dominated by very few, very large suppliers but they are very poor at reacting to trends leaving a bit of an open goal for smaller producers. However, this blatant opportunity also created a bottleneck with a plethora brown paper brands springing up almost overnight. The problem that I faced as a buyer presented with a deluge of options was how to make the right choice. They were all great quality, hand cooked crisps with an endearing heritage and backstory. A small supplier has a number of tools within its gift to create that point of difference (brand, flavours, packaging, marketing, target audience) but achieving the utopia of a unique proposition is no easy task.

However this mini-series is about more than just reviewing a selection of crisps. No, it’s much more than that. This blog is about reclaiming the meaning of quality, potato-based, snacking. I grew up with Kettle being a treat that was savoured only on special occasions but for too long has that ‘premium’ brand let me down. No bag of crisps that features on the shelves of B&M can boast a premium appeal. In fact I was in my local Lifestyle Express the other week and I saw a bag of Kettle crisps with a £1.29 price-mark on a Buy One Get One Free promotion. The buyer in me thought, ‘what an amazing deal, why wasn’t I ever offered that?’ but a little part of my crisp-loving soul cracked, broke off and shattered like the greasy little crumbs in the corner of the bag. 64.5p per bag of ‘premium’ crisps? No sir, I’m not having that!

Right, enough of that! On with my review…

Product Review: 10 Acre Crisps

Rating: 9/10

Appeals to: serious snackers, those crisp-adventurers who simply have had enough of run-of-the-mill crisps

Packaging

I’ll be honest, I’m a little enchanted by it. Now, I should mention that I really dislike gimmicky branding if it’s pitched badly however 10 Acre Village really works. The bags are matte with easy to differentiate varietals and splendidly appropriate imagery. The team at Yumsh have clearly worked hard to depict the brand personality in their packaging even down to the conversational dialogue on the back of the pack.

Price

£0.79 (40g bag) – I’d say they’re underselling themselves here, however it does make the proposition an accessible price point for the grammage and it can still be considered as part of a retailer’s Meal Deal (which as we all know is more sacred than the shroud of Turin). Depending on which environment you find yourself in you won’t be alarmed by this price point at all, I was pleasantly surprised.

Delivery

The one thing that was uniform across all the flavours was the general appearance. Each golden slice curled slightly at the edges to bring back the sounds, smells and sights of the lucky potatoes immersing themselves in the fryer. This non-uniformity enhanced the hand cooked and artisan appeal.

The Secret of Mr Salt

This was a great way to introduce myself to 10 Acre Crisps. It was simple but done really well. The slight fried slices melted in the mouth with a smooth oily finish.

When Chicken Soup Saved the Day

The same melt-in-the-mouth snack but with an initial meaty burst that’s seasoned to perfection.

Pastrami in the Rye

This is a brilliant snack. In terms of capturing the flavour description it is spot on. There’s an initial sweetness to the crunch that is quickly enveloped by a peppery mustard and strong beef finish.

When the Chilli Got Sweet

The first experience in this bag is a sweet tomato quickly chased through by a vinegary flavour with an ever so slight tingle at the back of the tongue.

The Story of When the Cheese Met the Onion

The most prominent flavour in this bite is a sharp white onion which is softened slowly by a delightfully light and creamy cheese.

When the Pepper Crack’d

Pepper crisps can be a little intense but 10 Acre have found an airy pepper that operates on another level to the oily potato to add a real flavour depth.

The Amazing Adventures of Salt and Vinegar

If I had to pick a favourite in the village this is it. It felt like I was eating a bag of chips, out of yesterday’s newspaper, with lashings of vinegar and a sprinkling of salt straight from the chippy. What a brilliant bag!

Verdict – in a word, inspiring! I said that I was setting out to reclaim the world of premium snacks, well here’s a brand that can do just that. The branding, packaging and flavour profiles are all brilliant and the price point is, if anything, too accessible. Also, as an added bonus, all their products are Gluten Free, Dairy Free and MSG Free; which, as well as being very important to sales is becoming increasingly important to shoppers looking for a snacking fix. Retailers take note: put Kettle crisps on your gondola ends to drive that volume and to get the masses flocking but if you want to add some value and credibility back into the category I’d be knocking on a few doors in 10 Acre Village!

Details: http://www.tenacrecrisps.co.uk

Northern Munkee.