Kettle cooks boundary-pushing innovation

by Monica Watrous
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ANAHIEM, CALIF. – To capture the taste of sriracha in a potato chip, the flavorists at Kettle Brand deconstructed the hot sauce into three separate flavors: chili pepper, garlic and vinegar. From there, the team considered such factors as whether the garlic should taste roasted, the level of heat from the peppers, and the design of the chip (a ridged chip collects more seasoning than a flat one).

“We didn’t pick just one sriracha to try to match,” Marc McCullagh, brand manager of Kettle Brand, told Food Business News during an exclusive interview at Natural Products Expo West, held March 7-9 in Anaheim, Calif. “With sriracha, there are a lot of enthusiasts. We weren’t worried about making it too hot or too mild. We were just looking for that authenticity.”

To develop sriracha chips, flavor technologists at Kettle Brand deconstructed the hot sauce into three flavors: chili pepper, garlic and vinegar.

Sriracha, which debuted in December, is one of Kettle Brand’s most recent additions to the line of kettle-cooked potato chips, which also includes such varieties as spicy Thai, cheddar beer and jalapeno jack. Flavor innovation and bold combinations lie at the heart of Kettle Brand, a Diamond Foods division. Last year, the company introduced maple bacon potato chips, a popular variety, Mr. McCullagh said.

“We take pride in pushing boundaries of flavor,” he said.

The snack maker also takes pride in offering chips made with real-sliced potatoes, the harbinger of Kettle’s “signature crunch,” while many competitors produce chips made with pressed dehydrated potato flakes, he said. Scheduled to ship in April is a new line of Real Sliced Potatoes baked potato chips with olive oil, sea salt, sea salt and vinegar, hickory honey barbecue, and cheddar and roasted tomato varieties.

“We are trying to reset the category of baked potato chips,” Mr. McCullagh said. “The name ‘baked’ has negative connotations with consumers. They associate baked chips as being flimsy and flavorless.”

Kettle Brand Real Sliced Potatoes baked chips are scheduled to ship in April with five flavors.

The products are positioned as “close to the farm” and have less fat than traditional potato chips.

Kettle Brand said all of its products are gluten-free and verified non-G.M.O., as well as free of artificial ingredients and preservatives. The sriracha chips, for example, are flavored with red bell pepper powder, garlic powder, dried red pepper sauce, paprika and vinegar.

“As we talk to consumers, they are looking for more transparency,” Mr. McCullagh said. “That has been the core of our brand since day one.”
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