Crisp packet colours should have an international flavour standard

It's crunch time for crisps and their packets.
It's crunch time for crisps and their packets.  Photo: FuatKose

COMMENT

You know you're on to something when Nigella Lawson and the United Nations agree with you. 

It started innocently enough. My brother visiting from the UK opened a packet of Smiths chicken chips. His excited face fell  when he realised that, in Australia, green means chicken flavour.

In the UK, red packets mean ready salted, blue mean cheese and onion and green is salt and vinegar.
In the UK, red packets mean ready salted, blue mean cheese and onion and green is salt and vinegar.  Photo: Supplied

Yes, he should have read the packet. But we do eat instinctively with our eyes as well as our mouths. Green should never be associated with poultry. Green should mean Cheese and Onion. I understood that this opinion didn't have a Paris Agreement level of importance but I felt passionate. I consequently shared my thought on Twitter that chip packet colours should have an international flavour standard. I also suggested that this standard should be policed by a global organisation.

What followed would warm the heart of even the most sour, carb-phobic Atkins devotee. 

Even the United Nations Council for Trade and Industry contacted me to assure me they were 'on it' as part of their studies into international non-tariff measures.

In the UK, red packets mean ready salted, blue mean cheese and onion and green is salt and vinegar.

In the UK, red packets mean ready salted, blue mean cheese and onion and green is salt and vinegar. Photo: Supplied

From all four corners of this earth came a vat of love for the sliced fried potato. Finally, I felt like I'd found my lost foodie tribe. I've always believed chips are one of life's true joys. I've been in love with them since I pioneered the gourmet chip sandwich in 1979. Slamming a handful between two slabs of unashamed dirty white gluten-full bread, made the perfect grey-day lunch. It STILL does, and it turns out many of us feel the same way. 

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Chip lovers from as far away as Asia, South America and the Caucasus all crunched in with their support. I was introduced to a whole assortment of new flavours: Cucumber in China, Lobster and Red Caviar in Russia, and to the astounding fact that in Germany Paprika is the de facto 'plain'. Chips are beyond a snack. They are something that people genuinely care about. This is because comfort food is a universal concept we can all understand. I'm not talking about the nutritionally balanced chicken soup for the soul here. I mean that glorious filth that flies out of shiny packets in moments of need. The chip speaks our emotional language wherever we are on earth. 

Everyone loves easy carbs. We rely on them as a guilty yet reliable place of snack safety.  In addition, they are one of the world's most underrated ingredient. Only warped epicurean snobbery stops many of us from admitting that crushed chips can make almost every dish better. Macaroni cheese, tortillas, rocket salads - all benefit from a liberal sprinkling of them. You've just got to make sure you pick the right flavour.  A deep, dark chocolate mousse with a sprinkling of ready salted is sublime; an onslaught of sour cream and chive flavoured dust - not so much.

This is why, amidst a universal outpouring of love for the chip, there was a consensus. We are currently living in a world divided by confusing savoury snack colours that cause disappointment, bewilderment and confusion. As my tweet suggested we must as a priority rectify this pandemonium once and for all. 

​Nigella Lawson, amongst 5039 other concerned people, agreed with me. Even the United Nations Council for Trade and Industry contacted me to assure me they were 'on it' as part of their studies into international non-tariff measures. Globally, there's a realisation that chip packaging is confounding sense. Take Australia, for instance - it's practically feral. Who picked pink for salt and vinegar?! In Russia that logically denotes crab chips. In the UK - prawn cocktail. At least those sea creatures are pink-ish. There was widespread agreement on social media that, wherever possible, there should be an association between the flavour and the colour of packaging. 

Green in particular is being misused the world over. In The Netherlands, green bizarrely denotes Bolognaise flavour. In Britain, a prolonged Mandela effect has left many people believing that Walkers - the chip market leader - changed the colour of cheese and onion from green to blue sometime in the mid 1980s. This simply isn't true. Walkers salt and vinegar crisps have always come in a green packet. However, because this bucks a natural sense of packaging justice in us, we react against it. 

We need one colour to indicate the same flavour, from Buenos Aires to Bhutan to Brisbane. We have enough colours to tackle every flavour that each national palette throws at us - from gherkin pickles in Belgium, or Worcestershire Sauce in the UK. 

There were suggestions on Twitter that this appeal for a global standard of chip packaging was 'British exceptionalism at play again'. Well 'Jan-Willem Jonker', I want to assure you that this is not the case. This is an issue that goes way beyond patriotism. I would be happy to forego any of the current British or Australian packet colours for a globally recognised standard. Let's get together over a family sized bag and sort it out. I'll start: brown MUST mean barbecue. The Australians have got that right.