Smith’s Crisps started life in a garage behind the Cricklewood Crown pub. Frank Smith and his wife cooked the crisps and sold them to the pub clientele. Soon Smith was selling them across London from his pony and trap, and within a year, they had taken on 12 full-time staff to keep up with demand. Smith’s great innovation was to add a twist of salt to the bag of potato crisps, giving them a flavour boost that left the competition standing. The potato snacks were such a success that Frank Smith and his business partner, Jim Viney, were able to open their first factory, in Brentford, in 1927.
The crisps were initially cooked in gas-fired cooking pots. (These were replace, in 1945, by a new continuous cooker process.) They were packed by hand and distributed by Nestlé Confectionery vans.
Other factories followed, among them ones at Bristol, Great Yarmouth, Heaton and Fforestfach.
In 1931, Frank Smith introduced the potato crisp to Australia, but the business struggled and he had to file for voluntary liquidation in 1932. George Ensor came to the rescue and Smith’s Crisps (Australia) was founded later that year. Up until 2003, the snacks were known by their British name of “potato crisps”, but the pressure of contemporary vernacular meant that they were eventually relabled “potato chips”.