Whether you like them dipped, tucked into a sandwich, or eaten straight from the pack, a bag of crisps is one of the UK's favourite snacks. But as our taste test proves, paying a premium doesn't guarantee a perfect pack.
More than 60 crisp-lovers crunched their way through premium-style lightly salted crisps from Kettle, Pipers and Tyrrell's, as well as own-brand crisps from Aldi, Lidl, Sainsbury's, Tesco and more.
Crisps from two supermarkets, costing less than half the price of branded options, topped our tests, along with just one of the premium packs.
But not all supermarket snacks delivered on the day. Our worst rated crisps were also own-brand and our tasters called out their lack of flavour and hard texture.
From 50% off to buy one, get one free, the crisps aisle is always plastered with deals, tempting you to buy now or miss out on the offer later. But how often are you really expected to pay the full price?
We looked at the prices of nearly 500 branded grocery products at Asda, Morrisons, Ocado, Sainsbury's, Tesco and Waitrose every day throughout 2020, including the three branded crisps in our taste test: Kettle, Pipers and Tyrrell's.
Prices for all three brands alternated between high and low at all the supermarkets they were available in. This means most of them could be found on discount at one or more retailers at any one time.
For example, Asda's price for a 150g sharing pack of Kettle lightly salted crisps flipped regularly between £1 and £1.99 at roughly four-week intervals. The cheapest we found them was 90p at Asda, and £1 at most other supermarkets. In fact, for at least 95% of the year you could buy them for £1 or less in at least one of the supermarkets.
It was a similar story for Tyrrell's lightly salted crisps.
Pipers crisps weren't as easy to find though - nor were they regularly discounted. Ocado was the only supermarket included in our investigation that sold Pipers crisps all year round.
At their cheapest you could grab a bag of Pipers for £1.50, but for most of the year customers had to pay the full £2.49.
Below, we've listed the shops with the highest and lowest average price points in 2020 for each brand of crisps, so you can be confident you're getting a deal.
|Brand of crisps||Lowest average price||Highest average price|
|Kettle Lightly Salted Crisps, 150g||90p at Asda||£2 at Morrisons, Sainsbury's and Waitrose|
|Tyrrell's Lightly Sea Salted Crisps, 150g||£1.15 at Asda||£2.30 at Morrisons|
|Pipers Anglesey Sea Salt Crisps, 150g||£1.50 at Ocado, Tesco and Waitrose||£2.50 at Waitrose|
|Table notes: based on pricing data for Asda, Morrisons, Ocado, Sainsbury's, Tesco and Waitrose throughout 2020.|
In practice, of course, you probably won't want - or be able to - to traipse round all your local supermarkets to find the best deal on your favoured crunchy snacks. But it's worth knowing where you can switch to a cheaper rival or other brand that's on offer, without sacrificing taste.
All the crisps in our test state they are hand-cooked. It sounds fancy, but what does it actually mean - and does it result in a better tasting crisp?
It depends what texture you're after. Standard crisps are fried continuously using a conveyer-belt-like process, whereas hand-cooked crisps are done in batches.
When cooked in batches, every time a new set of potatoes are added it lowers the temperature of the oil, which means the crisps take longer to cook. This gives the starch in the potatoes time to absorb moisture and dissolve before the potato finishes frying, which is said to result in a thicker textured crisp.
Standard crisps will typically be continuously fried in very hot oil. This means the moisture in the potato evaporates immediately making for a lighter, crispier snack.
The salted crisps were assessed by a panel of 64 consumers, broadly representative of the UK population, who regularly buy and eat crisps.
Panellists rated the taste, texture, aroma and appearance of each crisp and told us what they liked and didn't like.
The taste test was blind, so each taster didn't know which brand they were trying. The order of the samples was fully rotated to avoid bias.
This was all done in a private booth, so participants couldn't discuss results or be influenced by others.