For the first 130 years after the creation of the crisp, the only flavours were salted or unsalted. Then, in the 1950s, crisp manufacturers began to invent ways to add flavoru, and cheese & onion, salt & vinegar and barbecue flavour crisps were launched in the UK and USA. By 1970, the public’s taste for flavoured crisps was growing more enthusiastic. The manufacturers stepped up their operations to match demand.
This emergence of flavour in crisps was noticed in an unlikely quarter: by renowned architect and expert on Brutalism, Reyner Banham. In a 1970 New Society magazine piece entitled ‘The Crisp at the Crossroads’, he identified the trend towards “sundry aromas arising from the secret kitchens of [crisp companies’] research and development departments”.
Later that year, the British Society of Flavourists was formed, uniting food technologists and commercial enterprise in the pursuit of creating new natural and artificial flavours.
As the 1970s progressed, crisp companies began to treat their consumers as unofficial focus groups to test out new flavours. ‘Special request’ edition packets were introduced, due to public demand and for overtly limited periods.