This is a piece of creative non-fiction that was a submission for the Professional Writing module as part of my BA in Creative Writing. I wanted the piece of prose to have a humorous tone throughout whilst also blending in my personal crisp experiences with the history of brand flavours and ownership.
What is the best crisp flavour? That question always starts a heated debate. In a group of people, you’re always likely to find those who love Salt & Vinegar crisps, and those who hate them. I’m somewhere towards the ‘hate’ side. I mean, on the rare occasion that I do find myself eating a packet (normally the only remaining bag in a multipack) they’re always not as bad as I remember, but I still don’t go seeking them out afterward. If I had a choice between them and Cheese & Onion, then it’s Cheese & Onion all the way. And then there are people whose favourite is Ready Salted.
And that’s not even getting into all these different snack brands, most of which don’t follow the strict definition of a ‘potato crisp’, but are colloquially classed as such for easy of debate. Most people would like to think they haven’t been dragged into the great crisp discussion, but if you’re an adult that doesn’t want to eat Wotsits in public, you’ve been affected. You want to be taken seriously, you’ll probably have a bag of Walkers instead. No one in a managerial role would bring in a bag of Transform-A-Snack into work unless they want to be mercilessly mocked.
I have quite a strong opinion on crisps. I wouldn’t ‘crisp-shame’ anyone about their less mature brand choices, however I would happily take issue with someone who says that Beef & Onion Walkers are their favourite ever crisp. There is one crisp brand, however, that I have a severe opinion of: Nik Naks.
In the crisps and snacks aisle of my local Sainsbury’s, you will be sure to find me scowling at a multipack bag of Nik Naks. The twig-shaped corn-based snacks, now owned and made by KP Snacks, currently feature three flavours in their 6-bag multipack: Nice ‘n’ Spicy, Rib ‘n’ Saucy and Scampi ‘n’ Lemon. However, none of them were Nik Naks’s original flavour. When they were introduced by Sooner Snacks in 1981, they came in only one flavour – cheese – which came in a yellow bag. Cheese later became known as Cream ‘n’ Cheesy, but was then somehow discontinued in 2006, something I have never really gotten over.
Nik Naks have probably had more owners than any other British crisp brand, with a grand total of four. In 1981 they were first created by Scunthorpe-based Sooner Foods, which was founded in 1947 as Riley’s Potato Crisps. Sooner was then gobbled up by Golden Wonder in 1987, a move which saw Wheat Crunchies as well as Nik Naks become part of the Golden Wonder entourage. However, when Golden Wonder entered administration in 2006, they decided to sell the two snack brands to United Biscuits under the KP Snacks division, as the main operations of Golden Wonder were rescued by the Tayto Group. In 2012 though, the KP Snacks division was bought up by German company Intersnack.
I’m still annoyed they don’t do the cheese ones anymore. They were phased out in the multipacks to make room for Scampi ‘n’ Lemon, which made a comeback in 2002. In later years, Nik Naks have also introduced Pickle ‘n’ Onion, but they too have seemingly been discontinued. I never really cared for them. However, I was eager to try to discover why Cream ‘n’ Cheesy were stopped, so I sent an email to KP Snacks. I sent a message to them under the pseudonym of Douglas Crispwell from UKRISP, an organisation that seeks to ‘Make Crisps Great Again’. For those of you unfamiliar with Westminster politics, I took inspiration from the UK Independence Party’s (UKIP’s) former MP Douglas Carswell.
The customer services team got back to me, saying: “We regret to advise you that this product was discontinued by Golden Wonder; before we acquired the brand some eight years ago.” They also went on to describe that some products die out because of popularity, which hinted that production of Cream ‘n’ Cheesy ceased because it was unpopular, despite the fact it was only available in multipacks.
So there I am, still staring angrily at the Nik Naks. I obviously wasn’t going to buy them. Right next to the Nik Naks are the Wheat Crunchies, arguably the sister snack to Nik Naks due to their interlinked history from Sooner all the way to KP Snacks. Launched in 1987, the wheat-tube snack’s more well-known flavours are Crispy Bacon and Spicy Tomato. In 2012, Cheddar & Onion were introduced to the range. I have no issue with Wheat Crunchies. The bags are smaller than they used to be, from memory, although that might just be down to the fact that when I thought they were bigger I was a lot smaller than I am now. Discontinued flavours of Wheat Crunchies include Salt & Vinegar and Worcester Sauce, but I’m not a fan of either of those flavours so I don’t despise that snack.
Still can’t get over the Nik Naks though.