From an early age, children learn to associate a particular packet colour with a particular flavour of potato chip. In Australia, regardless of whether I wanted the tuck-shop lady to ‘Hit me with a Samboy chip’, a Smiths chip ‘So good, every potato wants to be one’ or preferred Thins, ’not as thick as some’ the same colour scheme applied. Original were dark blue, salt and vinegar were pink, cheese and onion were yellow, BBQ were orange, chicken were green, and tomato were red.
However, in England the school kids were adding a packet of McCoy’s or Golden Wonder crisps to their school dinners according to a whole different colour scheme. Original were red, salt and vinegar were blue, cheese and onion were green, chicken were orange and tomato and BBQ were unknown, but prawn cocktail was to be found in a pink packet.
You can imagine the culture shock I experienced when I fished a chip from a pink packet and instead of the heady hit of salt and vinegar, experienced the cheeky crustacean flavour of prawn cocktail. The English had already experienced what I term ‘chip-shock’ as Walkers uses green for salt and vinegar and blue for cheese and onion.
There is widespread belief that Walkers changed to these colours, as evidenced by the top question on their FAQ page:
This came to a head in 2013 when snack food manufacturer Golden Wonder, who first launched Cheese and Onion in green packets and Salt and Vinegar in blue launched a petition for the standard colours they have been using since the early 1960s are adopted by all manufacturers. To date it has been unsuccessful with Walkers sticking to their colour scheme.
Putting aside the rouge Walkers colours, should there ever be a worldwide standardisation of chip/crisp packet colours, what should they be?
Original: Australian dark blue or English red? Neither colour particularly reflects the colour of a potato or salt. Potentially a white packet would be most suitable. I would advise the English to save red for tomato or chilli chips.
Salt & Vinegar: Australian pink or English blue? Again, neither colour particularly reflects the colour of salt or vinegar. This is not a flavour you want to purchase by accident though, and the bright pink packet certainly warns the chip/crisp consumer that there is something surprising inside. Perhaps Australia should have saved pink for prawn chips.
Cheese & Onion: Australian yellow or English green? Yellow, as the general colour of cheese seems to be a better option here, I suppose onions can be green, but never cheese, unless something has really gone wrong. Maybe save it for in case pea or wheatgrass chips are ever a contender.
Chicken: Australian green or English Orange? As it the case with cheese, there is probably something wrong with a chicken if it has turned green, so perhaps it is not a great colour for Australian chicken flavoured chips unless they are green chicken curry flavour – yum! Orange however is a natural colour for the buff Orpington breed of chicken. Named for the English town of Orpington, the original black Orpingtons were bred in 1886, to create a black bird that would exhibit well by hiding the dirt and soot of London. By 1894 they must have worked out how to wash their chickens, and the buff Orpington, with its fluffy orange plumage was bred. Buff refers to the colour (of buff leather), and does not indicate a bird that works out at the gym, or is regularly nude.
Pringles also use the English colour scheme worldwide – original in red, salt & vinegar in blue, and cheese & onion in green. Perhaps I take more care when I buy Pringles, or perhaps I was never trained in Pringles colours at the tuck-shop, but whatever the reason, I tend to read the flavour prior to purchase rather than relying on the colour, thus avoiding the chip-shock phenomenon.
Twisties, (not available in the UK – except at specific Australian food shops), also adhere to the Australian yellow for cheese and green for chicken colours. On a recent trip to Italy we discovered that Twisties are called ‘Fonzies’. I kid you not, and I think Nato and I annoyed the owner of the Italian convenience store where we first spotted them by pointing and sniggering at his snack food display. Fonzies are a pale yellow colour and as they are baked rather than fried they have a different texture and flavour to Twisties.
Nato is addicted to an English snack food, Wotsits. They look like Styrofoam packing peanuts, but thankfully they taste a lot better, with a texture and flavour similar to Cheezels. Cheezels are not available in the UK (except at specific Australian food shops), so it has been quite some time since I have adorned all ten fingers with cheezel rings or tried to whistle through one, as shown on the ad. I was never able to do this, nor have I ever closed my fingers over a palm-full of peanuts and opened then to reveal a Snickers bar. Perhaps I just need more practice. Excuse me, I’m off to buy some peanuts, and possibly some Wotsits…