The Perfect Bag of Crisps — Can Chromatography Help?

Aug 04 2017 Read 1174 Times

The UK crisp market is huge — you only need to walk down the snack aisle of any supermarket to see that. But even though the market has reduced slightly in the last few years — due to other snacks getting into the market — it is still worth an estimated £1.4 billion per year.

To stay on top of their game, and to keep the young pretenders at bay, crisp manufacturers are using science and the latest brains from the UK’s universities to help them. One of the newest crisp makers has recently teamed up with one of the UK’s university’s and used chromatography and a KTP to launch a new flavour and develop new markets. Snack on.

Pipers — Award winning crisps

Pipers are one of the UKs newest entries into the competitive snack market — starting out in 2004 and run by three farmers keen to produce great tasting and quality crisps from local potatoes. In a short time, they have become award winning crisp makers and they aren’t resting on their laurels.

Pipers turned to science and innovation in their quest to improve their crisps and their market share. In 2015, they turned to the University of Nottingham — just down the road from their Brigg, North Lincolnshire home — and used a KTP to help improve the crisps and Pipers’ staff.

KTP — Knowledge Transfer Partnership

KTP is a programme that has been operating for 40 years and is run by Innovate UK. It is a scheme that businesses can use to help their business by utilising the knowledge, skills and technology that is in the UK. In this case, Pipers used the knowledge and skills the University of Nottingham’s Food Flavour and Sensory Science Laboratories — and the skills of a PhD student Deepa Agarwal.

But it is not all one way. Dr Ian Fisk, Deepa’s academic advisor at the university said:

‘The KTP has enabled my research group to work directly with a rapidly developing SME, understand the practical and commercial issues in snack food production whilst delivering high quality science.’

Crispy chromatography

Deepa used gas chromatography mass spectrometry to analyse the various crisp samples, a method used extensively in food analysis as discussed in this article, Rapid Screening of Volatile and Semi-Volatile Organic Components in Cocoa Beans and Chocolate Products Using a Portable GC/MS System.

Using GC-MS, Deepa could determine the flavour profiles of the crisps and also determine the stability of the crisps. The samples were stored at 45˚C in incubators to simulate shelf life. Then by analysing the samples, the team were able determine which factors degraded over the storage period.

Because of this work and by making process changes, the shelf life of the crisps has been significantly increased. This has allowed Pipers to expand into new export markets. KTPs have helped Pipers enter new markets and alongside chromatography they have improved one of the UKs leading food groups — crisps.

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