It takes 120 days from planting to harvest to create a product that can be consumed in minutes, but the journey of these potatoes goes back even further.
- Farming families have been providing potatoes for Smith’s crisps for decades
- Researchers scour social media and restaurant trends to explore new flavors
- PepsiCo brand owner ANZ works with 100% renewable energy and biodegradable or compostable packaging
Farmer Jason Menegazzo’s family has been growing potatoes for 50 years and for the past two decades has supplied only Smith’s Snackfood Company.
It is a legacy he feels honored to carry on the family estate in Galore in the Riverina of New South Wales.
âWe started out mainly as European migrants coming to Australia in the small blocks south of Werribie. That was 80 years ago now,â said Menegazzo.
“So it’s a long story, it didn’t happen overnight.”
Develop unique potato varieties
PepsiCo ANZ, the company that owns The Smith’s Snackfood Company, subcontracts 120 million kilograms of potatoes annually from 47 sites spanning North Queensland to South Victoria.
Agronomy Director JP Smith visits the farms to inspect the potatoes that are grown to make the crinkle cut potato chips.
About 20 years have been spent developing each of the exclusive potato varieties specially designed for crispness and optimized for year round supply.
“When the crop dies, we can leave it in the ground for up to four months using Mother Nature as a refrigerator, which allows us to have the same quality in the middle of winter.”
Smith’s crisps mark 90 years
Introduced from England in 1931, the Smith’s brand today celebrates 90 years of manufacturing in Australia.
Frank Smith and George Ensor started the first factory in Surry Hills in Sydney, where crisps were cooked in gas kettles, packaged by hand, and then sold in boxes.
Over the decades, manufacturing methods have evolved, with automation playing a major role in the remaining factories in Brisbane and Adelaide.
The process for each potato to be washed, peeled, sliced, fried, seasoned and then wrapped takes 20 minutes.
Gone are the days when consumers seasoned their crisps with a bag of salt included in each package.
Chicken was the first flavor variety introduced in 1961, and classic staples including the original, salt and vinegar, and barbecue continue to this day.
Production manager Nuala Power said the company’s research and development team is constantly on the lookout for the next big flavor.
âThey’re looking at what’s going on on social media, what restaurants are doing, the different food trends in the market and they’ll be looking overseas as well,â Ms. Power said.
The chips go through quality control processes that include taste testers.
Improve the sustainability of the plant
Manufacturing manager Jason Webster said 95% of production waste is reused, much of it going to composting and animal feed.
He said it was in the company’s best interest to minimize waste where possible.
âIf we peel too much, we create more waste and we also have to use more potatoes to make our finished product,â Mr. Webster said.
CEO Danny Celoni said the Brisbane plant had cut water consumption by 40% and electricity by 16% over the past five years.
Although the current snack packaging is recyclable, the company aims to have biodegradable or compostable alternatives by 2025, Celoni said.
“By the end of this year, we will have 100% renewable electricity from our manufacturing plants,” Celoni said.
Watch this story on ABC TV’s landline this Sunday at 12:30 p.m. or on to see.