On-trend fries can prove just as lucrative as the classics
THERE’S no two ways about it, chips have been a perennially popular food choice in bars and pubs for years.
But with consumers increasingly looking to experiment with new and unusual food and drink – and a growing trend towards healthier eating – what does the future have in store for the humble chip?
A change in consumer attitude toward chips is currently taking place, according to Nic Townsend of food firm, Farm Frites.
He told SLTN: “The well-loved side dish is beginning to take centre stage and be considered as an integral part of the meal.”
Similarly, Nigel Phillips of potato company Lamb Weston said chips are an “essential part of any operators’ menu, especially as consumers are now embracing all-day dining and eating more sharing-style dishes than ever before”.
But in order to fully capitalise on the popularity of the chip, operators must ensure they keep abreast of the latest trends and consumer demands.
Health continues to influence the eating habits of many diners, which means the classic potato has lost some ground to its healthier cousin: the sweet potato.
That was the view of Mohammed Essa, commercial director at potato processing firm Aviko UK & Ireland, who said: “We’ve seen sweet potato demand grow [in the] out-of-home [sector] in recent years and it is showing no signs of slowing.
“From our own insight, we have found that a staggering 66% of UK consumers think there are currently not enough sweet potato options available.
“The growing appeal of sweet potato demonstrates it is an opportune time for pubs to introduce this key trend to their menus and appeal to the wide group of diners looking for a healthier option.”
Townsend of Farm Frites agreed, stating the sweet potato chip “fulfils the brief for a healthier option over regular fries”.
“These chips are driving innovation of side dishes and allowing customers to personalise their meal with the ‘trendy’ option,” he said.
Customisation was also highlighted by Jo Holborn of potato firm McCain, who reckons that, as well as affording licensees a point of difference, customised topped and seasoned fries (‘house-style fries’) can offer operators healthy profit margins.
She said house-style fries “are on-trend, easy to prepare and enable you to charge a premium price for very little additional outlay”.
“They also add variety, excitement and personality to the menu and can be ordered as a side to customise meals, or as a sharing option,” she added.
Echoing this view, Townsend of Farm Frites said products such as the sweet potato is “a win-win for operators”, as it “can command a premium price point over a standard chip”.
“This allows operators the chance to benefit from mark-up on a relatively cost effective item,” said Townsend.
Phillips of Lamb Weston added that in order to make the most of demand for upgraded chips, operators “need to offer and encourage customers to trade up”. He suggested this could be done via a ‘build your own’ fries section on an outlet’s menu, which he said would allow customers to “tailor to their tastes and preference, providing that ‘personal’ experience”.
However, operators looking to expand their chip offer should be mindful of their own customers’ tastes, according to Holborn of McCain.
“For more premium menus, simple options like smoked salt or truffle oil can add a unique twist to fries.
“For more casual dining-inspired menus, pub operators are finding success with indulgent American BBQ-style options, with everything from pulled pork to chilli cheese proving popular.”
Regardless of the approach, quality ingredients must always be used.
“Before you start adding seasonings and toppings, it is vital that the quality is right – otherwise there is no hiding place,” said Holborn of McCain.
A top chip: Sweet Potato Nachos
• 1kg Aviko Sweet Potato Fries
• 500g beef chilli
• 190g guacamole
• 125g soured cream
• 190g salsa
• 15g chives
• 10 lime wedges
Method: cook the sweet potato fries as per the on-pack instructions, then put onto a serving plate.
Top with beef chilli, then add on the guacamole, soured cream and salsa.
Chop the chives and finely slice the chillies, then sprinkle over the top.
Finish with a lime wedge and serve.
Supplied by Aviko UK & Ireland