Ambient & General Groceries

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Related tags: Potato, Potato chip

Like shortlisted company Better Tasting Snack Foods, ambient category winner Tyrrells Potato Chips has been riding the wave of interest in...

Like shortlisted company Better Tasting Snack Foods, ambient category winner Tyrrells Potato Chips has been riding the wave of interest in 'hand-fried' or batch-produced potato chips.

It's one area where small producers can definitely outstrip the snack industry giants -- and take a slice of the mainstream snacking boom.

Tyrrells features regularly in best-product listings, collecting no fewer than three golds from the Guild of Fine Food Retailers in this year's Great Taste Awards.

More than this, however, Tyrrells, located deep in the Herefordshire countryside near Leominster, is also providing a perfect role model for Britain's struggling agricultural industry.

Owner William Chase had run the family potato farm for 20 years before supermarket price pressures and falling profits forced him to look at added-value options. And in 2002, Chase took the first steps towards diversifying into gourmet crisps based on raw material from his own farm.

He started out selling to local delis and restaurants. Less than two years later, he is delivering in excess of 100,000 packs a week to a customer base that has risen from 20 to more than 2,000.

Those clients range from small farm shops to upmarket department stores including Harrods, Harvey Nichols, Selfridges and The Villandry. Rick Stein's restaurant is using Tyrrells chips as a garnish, and Pret a Manger is one of several retailers using Tyrrells to supply private label chips.

Tyrrells has also developed beyond potatoes, adding parsnips, mixed root vegetables, beetroot and celeriac to its hand-fried chip range, with parsnip chips now driving a lucrative export business.

It is now distributing to Ireland, France, Spain and the Netherlands. At the same time, its UK sales team has been increased with a remit to target 'top-up' shops, and Tyrrells is building a network of small distributors to help it cope with its rapid rate of growth.

The company received Efsis accreditation for the first time earlier this year, and is now focusing on environmental management, drawing water from its own, newly-sunk well; introducing a new waste management system, and arranging for frying oil to be collected, cleaned and re-used as fuel.

So the Food Manufacture Excellence Award for the ambient category is just a brief stopoff on a largely non-stop journey since 2002.

Category: Ambient & General Groceries

Winner: Turrells Potato Chips

Shortlisted: Better Tasting Snack Foods, Jordans, Union Snacks

Sponsored by: Christian Salvesen

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