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    How Kettle Chips became a household name

    Inspection of the Kettle Chips

    In nearly three decades, Kettle Foods has grown from one man’s vision to a household name and a major player in Norfolk’s food sector.

    And there are no signs of that growth trend slacking any time soon, according to Jeremy Bradley, managing director of the firm’s European operation.

    Almost a year after the company was bought by US snack firm Diamond Foods, sales have increased 24pc and plans are afoot for further expansion following the announcement of a £6.8m investment in its factory in Bowthorpe, Norwich.

    The firm and its distinctive Kettle Chips potato crisps trace their origins to 1982 in Salem, Oregon, when Cameron Healy, a Sikh who ran a small natural foods firm, was inspired by crisps fried in a bucket and eaten fresh while on holiday in Hawaii.

    Taking the idea, he originally intended to call his products bucket chips, but settled on the safer Kettle Chips name, which he delivered from a single beaten-up van.

    kettle chips flavouring process in the factory

    The Kettle Chips Flavouring Process

    Kettle Foods was established in the UK about five years later in partnership with ex-banker Tim Meyer after Mr Healy discovered the British love of crisps while on a motorcycle tour of Europe, beginning production in a former shoe factory on Vulcan Road, near Norwich International Airport, in 1988.

    Mr Bradley said the crisps had “resonated” with customers from the start, thanks to the focus on simple, natural ingredients and hand cooking, resulting in a product in line with Mr Healy’s original vision.

    While the growth of the company has been in large part a story of continuity – many of the East Anglian potato growers who supplied the company at the start continue to do so – there has also been change.

    In 2002 Kettle experienced a “hiatus” when Walkers launched its Sensations range of crisps, which like Kettle, sold in larger bags designed for sharing.

    Mr Bradley said Sensations sent the market into “a bit of a spin”, disrupting a period of continued growth for the Norwich firm – but which he said was ultimately “healthy” for the business.

    “It reminded us to run our business with humility, to try and see it as customers see it and run the business through their eyes,” he said.

    Latest published figures for Kettle for the year to end of September 2008 showed sales of about £59m, up 20pc on the previous year, putting the company in the top 50 firms by turnover in Norfolk, north Suffolk and east Cambridgeshire.

    But with a UK market share of 4.2pc – making it the country’s third biggest crisp brand – Mr Bradley said Kettle’s story of success and growth was set to continue.
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