Saturday 2 April 2016

Added value

Last year 2015 Irish farmers planted the lowest acreage - 8500 ha - of potatoes for at least 20 years, this was down 20% on the previous year because potato prices have been falling for several years.  Prices are down partly because demand is down: Murphy is no longer eating murphys because he's eating quinoa and pizza rather than the traditional bacon & cabbage and b'iled spuds. What to do? Farmer's are in general a) not stupid and b) adaptable and if potatoes are not profitable they'll hunt out a contract for malting barley or oats.  But if you're enterprising you can stay in the potato business, cut out the middle-man and turn a profit.  That's what the Keogh family of North County Dublin have done.  Aghast at getting only €300/tonne for their Golden Wonders, they have 'taken the bell through' and are now selling their own potato crisps [chips to yankee-dogs].

We had the whole family visiting for Easter The Boy + 3, Dau.I and Dau.II.  It's been a bit a squeeze for beds: people are stacked like cord-wood upstairs but the quality of the food has cranked up several notches.  One of the products that popped up on Sunday was a 6 x 40g multi-pack of Keogh's Crisps, which retails for €3.69 at Tesco that compares to a six-pack x 25g of the traditional Tayto Cheese&Onion at €1.97.  Keogh's thus give themselves a 17% mark-up as well as being more generous in the portion control. I'll assume that Tesco gets €1.69 for unloading a pallet of Keogh's crisps and having one of their miniwage drones load the packets onto the shelves. That leaves €2.00 wholesale for Keogh's Inc.  Maths says they have converted €300/tonne into €8300/tonne by putting a lot of labour, expertise and ingenuity into the base product.  Not to mention a lab for doing research and product development [which might be Mrs Keogh's kitchen, for all we know]; potato scrubbers, peelers and slicers; banks of deep friers and a lot of hired hands to make it all happen.

"for all we know?" some might think we know rather too much about the Keogh's operation. The back of each packet tells us the variety of potato we're eating [Lady Claire] the field in which it grew [Springhill] and who cooked the crisps [Zintra & Sebastin]. That's homely and a lot better than some opaque product/batch code which just makes me think about product recall because broken glass or a dead mouse has been discovered in a packet of crisps. I dunno about Zintra and Sebastin: they look like typos or maybe noms de plume like my pal working in a tele-sales centre under the handle Attracta Looney.

What's so good about Keogh's? Let's look at the Table of Contents of, say, their Cheese and Onion crisps: Keogh's Potatoes (60%), Sunflower Oil, Onion (3%), Dried Dubliner Cheese (Milk), Lactose (Milk), Dried Vegetarian Cheese (Milk), Rice Flour, Salt, Yeast Extract, Parlsey, Garlic, Rapeseed Oil, Acidity Regulator: Lactic Acid & Calcium Lactate (Milk), Paprika Extract. Dunno about you, but I find that a surprising amount of Sunflower Oil: it can hardly be less than 30%. But at least there is no water added, like you find in Benecol or other margarines.  They warn the worried well that there are traces of (Milk). But you can't escape from the stuff; even the Salt & Vinegar crisps have added lactose Keogh's Potatoes (60%), Sunflower Oil, Sea Salt (3%), Lactose (Milk), Sugar, Dried Llewllyn's Cider Vinegar (contains maltodextrin), Dried Malt Vinegar (contains maltodextrin), Dried Balsamic Vinegar (contains maltodextrin), Yeast extract, Citric acid, Malic Acid, Natural Flavouring, Vegetable Oil. Here's a thought: how bad would the crisps be without adding lactose? In case you are utterly clueless about food and diet, the Keogh's tell you on the front of the packet that their crisps are "GLUTEN FREE".  Yup, they are also haemoglobin free, keratin free, patchouli free and kitchen-sink free.

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