Pre-cut Agria chips gaining popularity in Belgium
When you think about chips, you think about Belgium. Despite the popularity of modern foods, such as superfoods or the hype surrounding avocados, old-fashioned chips remain enormously popular. Yet something is changing for chips. A shift is happening in the period between field and deep-frying pan.
In Wuustwezel, Flanders, the chip processing company De Coster works with potatoes. A large part of their assortment is focused on the chips industry. Both whole potatoes and pre-cut fresh chips are processed by the Belgian company. For the chips, the potato processing company practically always uses the same potatoes. “We mostly use Bintje or Agria,” says Sofie de Coster from the company of the same name. “We’ve noticed Agria chips potatoes have become more popular in recent years. This is due to the more constant frying quality of this potato compared to that of Bintje. This variety turns brown much quicker, although nothing compares to Bintje’s flavour. Agria is a bit drier and easier to fry because of that. It’s up to customers to decide what they want.”
Besides, there’s another reason Agria is gaining popularity, according to Sofie. “In the Netherlands, chef Sergio Herman opened a number of chips shops in which only Agria is used,” she says. “He now also has a number of shops with only this variety in Belgium. He is talking about this variety in all the magazines. I think this contributed to Agria’s popularity.”
De Coster sells both cut and uncut chips. What do most people choose? “Cut chips,” according to the daughter of the company’s owner. “Twenty years ago, we cut 70 per cent of the chips potatoes, and 30 per cent was sold as whole potatoes. People used to peel and cut their own chips back then. That difference has only become larger. Nowadays we cut 90 per cent of the chips potatoes, and the remaining 10 per cent is sold whole. It’s easier for people to buy potatoes peeled and cut. The large-sized potatoes are sold as chips potatoes, the smaller ones are sold as table potatoes.”
More than convenience
The convenience of pre-cut chips can be a reason why people choose this type of chips potatoes. Yet there’s another reason why customers choose cut chips more often. “You might not expect it, but pre-cut chips are cheaper that the uncut kind,” Sofie says. “Whole potatoes involve more manual labour. When we cut the chips, a camera system ensures chips with eyes are removed. The whole potatoes have to be manually pitted, so that it’s more trouble to ensure the entire potato looks well. That’s why prices for that product are slightly higher.”
The Belgian company mostly supplies to cafeterias they stock once every two days. They’re on the road every day to provide different cafeterias with fresh chips. Between the time the potato is cut and put in a cone with mayonnaise, often only a day passes, according to Sofie. “If we cut the potatoes today, they can be in supermarkets tomorrow,” she continues. “Shelf life of our chips is one week. I think that people sometimes confuse fresh chips with frozen chips. My personal opinion is that frozen chips can be good, but fresh ones taste better. The fresh chips have to be fried twice, while frozen ones only have to be fried once. Frozen chips are prepared quicker.”
In addition to cut chips being popular and Agria versions doing well, more changes appear to be occurring in the world of chips. Not in chips shops, but in restaurants and food trucks. “They want to be more distinctive by serving thicker chips or chips with peel,” Sofie says. “We also produce thick chips. We’re still working on chips with peel. We sell various sizes of chips to our customers. For chips shops it’s often cheaper to buy cut chips, otherwise they’d have to hire someone to cut the chips for them. It all depends on what you want.”
Sofie de Coster
Publication date: 10/23/2017
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