Are Cajun squirrel crisps the new cheese and onion?
Published 09/01/2009 | 01:44
Irked by cheese and onion? Dispirited by prawn cocktail? Bored with ready-salted? Well, why not reach for a bag of Cajun squirrel-flavoured crisps? Or perhaps you'd like to try chilli and chocolate.
From today, jaded snackers will be able to choose from six wacky new crisp flavours – which also include crispy duck, onion bhaji, fish and chips and builder's breakfast – following a competition the snack giant Walkers organised to find a 21st century rival to our old favourites.
The most popular pack will go into full-time production after a public vote ends in May. About 1.2 million would-be food technologists submitted entries to the competition that consisted of a flavour and a picture that best summed it up.
Where there were multiple entries for a single flavour, a judging panel fronted by the chef Heston Blumenthal used the pictures as tie-breakers.
The six finalists – who attended a ceremony in London last night – will each receive £10,000.
The winner will receive £50,000 and annual royalties of 1 per cent on sales of their flavour, meaning they may be able to retire on their winnings; 1 per cent of sales of BBQ flavour crisps amounts to £57,000 a year, according to Freud Communications, Walkers' PR agency.
Most of those shortlisted had drawn their inspiration from ethnic or traditional British dishes.
Jane Hallam, a 45-year-old social worker from Sheffield, came up with fish-and-chip flavour despite being a vegetarian for 20 years.
She can eat the crisps because they contain no fish – the taste is constructed from herbs, spices and other "flavouring".
Similarly, no squirrels were harmed in the making of the Cajun squirrel flavour – the brainchild of online marketing expert Martyn Wright, 26, the only man in the final.
Mr Wright, who lives in Staffordshire, was inspired to enter when he saw squirrel on a restaurant menu and believes the public will be so intrigued they will buy a pack.
"Although the idea might sound bizarre, it really works," he said.
Crispy duck and hoisin, one of two flavours derived from ethnic dishes, came from Vicky Howard, 21, a mapmaker from Northwich, Cheshire.
Emma Rushin, a 26-year-old housewife from Belper in Derbyshire, burst into tears when she was told that her "builder's breakfast" flavour had made it to the final six.
Ms Rushin, who will put down a deposit on a house if she wins the competition, said: "First you get a hint of sausage, then egg, bacon, and last the buttery toast."
Casting her mind back to November when she learnt that she was in the last six, she recalled: "I think I was in shock for about three days."
After the entries were narrowed down and the finalists selected, food technologists set about creating the flavours in the laboratory, using a mixture of natural ingredients and unspecified "flavouring", which Walkers' head of flavour development, James Stilman, said were "natural flavour compounds" and not e-numbers.
Full English breakfast is made up of salt, pepper, sage, barley malt extract, butter, citric acid, dried garlic and flavouring, while the ingredients for Cajun squirrel include milk, lactose, salt, sugar, dried onion, dried garlic, dried lemon juice, cardamon, ginger, coriander, chilli, cumin, oregano, thyme, allspice, parsley, paprika extract and flavouring.
Walkers, the UK's biggest crispmaker with annual sales of £500m, launched its Do Us A Flavour campaign last July.
Mr Blumenthal – famous for his unusual food concoctions such as bacon-and-egg ice cream – said: "We've had an incredible response and sifting through the entries has been quite incredible."
The crisps cost 38p a packet. The public can vote until 1 May via a free text message or at www.walkers.co.uk.