Who Invented the Salt and Vinegar Chips? (Invention Timeline Explained)

Salt and vinegar chips are available in a broad spectrum of flavor intensities, from mild varieties to the more tangy and salty options that both sting and excite the taste buds. Of all flavored potato chips, the salt and vinegar variety is definitely a hit among the young and old. It plays with the tastebuds, unlike any other flavor, allowing consumers to feel the flavor as they go through an entire bag all by their lonesome. 

At some point, you may have wondered whose genius mind this invention came from. Let’s look at the hows and whys of salt and vinegar chips.  

Who invented the first salt and vinegar chips?

Potato chips weren’t that special in their early years. It was only in the 1950s when Joe “Spud” Murphy, the owner of an Irish chip company called Tayto, that chips gained worldwide popularity. His innovation enabled the addition of seasoning during the manufacturing process. As a result, the salt and vinegar variety was one of the first potato chip flavors to have ever been incorporated into potato chips.

Salt and vinegar chip history’s key contributors (and evolution)

  • Joe “Spud” Murphy 
    Second Chip Flavor Offering 

    The nose-crinkling tanginess of salt and vinegar chips was a colossal hit shortly after the first few bags were manufactured in the 1950s by Tayto, an Irish chip company owned by Joe “Spud” Murphy. The first flavored chips came in cheese and onion varieties.

  • Old Dutch 
    First Canadian Chips In Canada

    In 1954, Old Dutch was the first Canadian company that brought salt and vinegar chips to Canada.  

  • Walkers
    Nationwide Launch

    It was in 1967 that Walkers made salt and vinegar chips readily available in supermarkets all over the British Isles.

  • Jim Connell
    Salt and Vinegar Chips Made in Canada

    Jim Connell of Griffith Laboratories was sent to the UK with the task of figuring out how to formulate a dried form of acetic acid. His innovation helped the production of the first salt and vinegar chips manufactured in Canada.

  • Lays
    Discontinued Salt and Vinegar Chips

    The food giant Lays discontinued its salt and vinegar chips due to weak sales.

When was the salt and vinegar chips created?

The owner of a small Irish chip company, Tayto, created the first salt and vinegar chips. Then, Joe “Spud” Murphy came out with a technology that enabled the incorporation of seasonings and flavors into chips. 

A brief history of salt and vinegar chips

The first potato chips were invented in 1853 by the African American chef George Crum. They were unseasoned. The British customarily consumed chips with battered fish. Back then, people used malt vinegar to flavor their chips. It was only in the 1950s that the incorporation of seasonings began in the United Kingdom. Joe “Spuds” Murphy, the owner of Tayto, came up with an innovation that enabled him to add seasonings to the chips. 

Salt and vinegar was the second flavor integrated into commercially available chips. Murphy first developed cheese and onion flavored chips to test his dry flavoring technology. More than a decade after the invention of flavored chips, another British food company made salt and vinegar chips widely available in the United Kingdom. Walkers first released Cheese and Onion in 1954. However, the company took about 13 years to launch its Salt and Vinegar variety. 

The British and eastern Canadians have very similar tastes in their chips. This is partly because Canada was under British rule around this time. The locals adopted the flavor preferences of its colonizers. The same year Walkers released its first flavored chips, a Winnipeg-based chip company called Old Dutch brought salt and vinegar chips to Canada. However, it was only after 1967 that Canada was able to manufacture its salt and vinegar chips. Jim Connell of Griffith Laboratories developed the dry vinegar formula. It is said that to this day, James Connell refused to disclose his salt and vinegar formulation. 

Lays, one of the biggest potato chips manufacturers, discontinued the production and distribution of their salt and vinegar chips in 2020. The company announced on Twitter that this flavor saw a decline in sales over the years, pushing them to halt its production permanently. 

Salt and vinegar chips timeline

  1. 1853
    The first chips were created 

    George Crum, an African American chef, was the first person who taught to slice potato chips thinner to make them more appealing to discerning customers.

  2. 1950s
    Seasoned Chips Were Invented 

    Tayto, an Irish-owned company, produced the first batches of seasoned chips. Salt and vinegar was the second flavor incorporated into potato chips. The first flavor was Cheese and Onion.

  3. 1954
    Arrival of Salt and Vinegar Chips in Canada 

    Old Dutch, a Winnipeg chip company, was the first company that introduced salt and vinegar chips in Canada.

  4. 1967
    Salt and Vinegar Chips Nationwide Launch 

    Walkers introduced their first seasoned chips, Cheese and Onion, in 1954. The company took more than 13 years to release its salt and vinegar chips to the broader public. Finally, they became the first company to distribute their salt and vinegar chips to supermarkets nationwide.

Where was the first salt and vinegar chips created?

The first salt and vinegar chips were produced in the United Kingdom. Tayto, an Irish chip company, developed a technology that enabled them to add flavors to their commercially manufactured chips. In addition, it was in 1954 that salt and vinegar chips were first distributed in Canada. 

The importance of the first salt and vinegar chips

  • The origin of salt and vinegar chips

    Salt and vinegar chips were inspired by the traditional way the British enjoyed their fish and chips. They used malt vinegar as a dip for battered chips and potato wedges.

  • The widespread consumption of salt and vinegar chips in the United Kingdom

    Potato chips or crisps became popular in the United Kingdom after World War II. Advances in food science and manufacturing equipped chip companies to produce flavored chips in bulk.

  • The introduction of salt and vinegar chips in Canada 

    As Canadians shared a similar palate to the British, it wasn’t long before they developed a liking for salt and vinegar chips. Old Dutch became aware of this food trend. They are the first company that commercially sold salt and vinegar chips in Canada.

  • Most popular salt and vinegar chip varieties in the United States 

    According to a survey conducted by Statista in 2020, the most popular salt and vinegar chips in the United States are Lays, Pringles, Cape Cod, Kettle Brand, Utz, and Miss Vickie’s.

Salt and vinegar chips by the numbers

  • 1835If it were for the discerning diners of George Crum, salt and vinegar would not have been invented in the 20th century. Instead, his diners preferred thinner slices of potatoes over potato wedges.
  • 1954Technological innovations made it possible for food manufacturers to add flavors to potato chips and produce them on a grand scale. In 1954, Walkers became the first company to have seasoned potato chips in bulk. However, it was only in 1967 that they released salt and vinegar-flavored potato chips.
  • 160The calorie count in one serving of salt and vinegar chips varies from brand to brand. Before Lays discontinued salt and vinegar chips, it was reported that one serving (17 chips) contained 160 calories.
  • 4According to a survey by Statista, salt and vinegar chips are the fourth most popular potato chip flavor in the United States.

Five facts about salt and vinegar chips 

  • Sodium acetate is the base flavoring ingredient of salt and vinegar chips

    Dry vinegar is the main ingredient in most salt and vinegar chip recipes. Most chip manufacturers use the following ingredients to deliver that tangy flavor associated with salt and vinegar chips: sodium acetate, sodium diacetate, and liquid vinegar with maltodextrin.

  • Dry vinegar dates to 1615

    While potato chips were first invented in 1835, producing dry vinegar and infusing it into food products dates to 1615. An older home recipe for dry vinegar was first documented in an old book called The English Housewife: Containing the Inward and Outward Virtues Ought to be in a Complete Woman.

  • Essential food item in World War II

    Salt and vinegar chips would never have been invented if food manufacturers in the United States and other countries had stopped their chips production during World War II. At one point, the United States declared chips as a non-essential food item. However, many companies rallied against this notion. As a result, the War Production Board eventually backed down. In turn, this allowed potato chips to resume their production. As a result, the sales of potato chips saw a significant increase in sales during and after World War II.

  • Malt vinegar inspired salt and vinegar chips

    The first salt and vinegar flavor in chips was inspired by malt vinegar. It has a sweeter and milder impact on the palate. It is less acidic than white vinegar and features a nutty flavor that makes it the perfect dip for battered fish among the British. As potato wedges were the usual accompaniment of battered fish, the British also used malt vinegar to add flavor to potato wedges.

  • There are more than 1,300 chips flavors to date

    The first production of seasoned crisps inspired more companies in the United Kingdom and other food manufacturers in Canada and the United States. Technological innovations enabled companies to formulate their version of salt and vinegar chips. Companies such as Lays, Kettle Brand, Old Dutch, Tyrrells, and McCoys developed their salt and vinegar formulations. Today, there are more than 1300 potato chip flavors that are being sold across the globe.

FAQs about salt and vinegar chips

  • What are the saltiest salt and vinegar chips?

    The saltiest salt and vinegar chip variety on the market is Herr’s Salt and Vinegar. Based on studies, one serving of Herr’s Salt and Vinegar contains a whopping 490 milligrams of sodium. As a result, it is considered the unhealthiest salt and vinegar chip variety due to its high sodium content, which goes beyond the recommended 2,300 milligrams per day by the American Heart Association. 

  • Why are salt and vinegar chips called crisps in the United Kingdom?

    The British couldn’t use the term chip to refer to potato chips. The term already existed, as it relates to potato wedges, a common food item in the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe in the 19th century.

  • What makes salt and vinegar chips addictive?

    While salt as a base seasoning makes potato chips taste good, adding vinegar excites the palate and triggers an instant craving for more. The various acids used to create salt, and vinegar chips make all the difference. Acetic acid, fumaric acid, citric acid, and lactic acid are scientifically formulated in various concentrations to create a sharp and unique flavor that tastes appetizing on potato chips. The salty and sour combination yields a flavor that is uniquely delicious and additive at the same time. 

  • Who produces the strongest salt and vinegar chips?

    According to salt and vinegar lovers, the strongest salt and vinegar chips are recipes from manufacturers such as Herr’s, Miss Vickie’s, and Utz. 

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