It was with some excitement that we entered the factory. Bedecked in full splendour of lab coats, shoe coverers and hairnets, we were shown enormous cartons of potatoes. Throughout the year, Burts use different varieties of potato depending on what's best for the season. I rather liked this idea; a spring-time packet is likely to be a little different to that of one bought in, say, the autumn.
A huge, intimidating vat of bubbling sunflower oil was being stirred carefully to help the crisps cook more evenly. Used oil doesn't just get chucked out - it goes to making dog food. The oil keeps their coats shiny. It's all about recycling here; potato slurry goes to local farmers to feed their cows, and any sub-standard crisps are fed to pigs. I would be a happy pig.
Plucking a hot, freshly fried crisp off the production line was a joy. I had to stop myself from greedily shovelling handfuls into my mouth. Unsalted at this stage, they were pure potato goodness.
The above nifty contraption sorts the crisps, when seasoned, into perfect bag amounts.
I was surprised by how much work goes into making a bag of crisps. The crucial stage is the frying and the oil has to be kept at a constant temperature for even cooking. Ultraviolet technology checks the crisps in case they get stuck together, resulting in a raw starchy middle, and my favourite part was a weight sensor that blew out a blast of air to reject any packets that were too heavy or too light. It was an eye-opening experience to say the least.
We ended the tour by going to the offices for a crisp tasting session. Soon to launch, Burts will be making a Thai sweet chilli flavour, and we were to try three different types, with the favourite flavour to go on the market. We thought long and hard, we munched many crisps and a favourite emerged, the spiciest of the lot.
My crisp addiciton has been reignited.