After reviewing Uncle Ben's Rice a long time ago, I didn't expect to find another food product so awful I'd feel the need to write about it. And, well, from what I remember, Kettle Chips used to be fine and almost worth the higher price compared to regular chips. While never as good as Tyrrell's (the other famous UK brand), Kettle used to be a somewhat comparable product.
That has changed. Maybe it's Brexit. I don't know. Anyway, the product I have chosen for this test is a 150 g bag of Kettle's hand cooked potato chips, Sea Salt & Crushed Black Pepper flavor.
Packaging and Ingredients
This is not really such an important aspect, but I just want to mention that the packaging looks nice and solid, like a product of a certain quality. For some reason, Kettle chose to add the absolutely meaningless slogan "REAL FOOD INGREDIENTS" to both the front- and the back side of the bag. What the hell would an "unreal" food ingredient even be?
The slogan might make people expect to be purchasing a product without unnecessary additives, but you'd be absolutely mistaken. What is necessary for chips of this particular flavor, apart from potatoes, oil, salt and black pepper? According to Kettle, that is not enough - you definitely need maltodextrin, yeast extract, sugar, and citric acid! Yummy!
One thing I must admit is that you can immediately smell the black pepper, and a vague idea of toastiness. The odor in general however reminds me of farm animals.
In a word, abysmal. First of all, hand-cooked chips often carry the risk of a rancid flavor component (resulting from the oil being cooked at high temperatures, I guess), and Kettle is unable to avoid that. I assume that the maltodextrin, yeast extract, and the citric acid are at least partly meant to mask that aroma, but instead they turn the whole composition of flavors into an unholy disaster.
Some people say maltodextrin doesn’t have a distinctive taste, but in my view there are strong notes of fizzy candy (aided by the added sugar) and malt here, which together with the very noticeable citric acid, the unnecessary umami taste from the yeast extract, and the flavor of rancid oil make for a disgusting cocktail. There is a reasonably toasty aroma from the potatoes and the amount of black pepper and salt is just about right, but those elements are completely overwhelmed by the horrible cocktail of maltodextrin, sugar, yeast extract, and citric acid.
Crunch is very important for chips of any kind, and I’m aware that thicker "hand-baked" Chips are in a somewhat different category than "regular" thin-type chips. The chips I tried for this test have a damp quality to them, as if the packaging was not airtight (I tested, it was), or as if the product was past the best before date (it was still in that range). While a single chip may have a half-decent crunch, the next one can be rather moist, resulting in a cardboard-like texture. After a short time in the mouth, and even with just regular chewing, Kettle chips quickly gain an unsatisfactory felt-like texture.
Honestly, all in all, would they simply choose to add nothing but salt and pepper as a flavoring this would be a sub-standard, but somewhat consumable product. But as is, Kettle chips are not enjoyable, and you'd be doing much better with most any other, discount priced off-brand bag of potato chips of your choice.