Dublin family enjoys a slice of new market

Fri, Jan 27, 2012, 00:00

KEOGH’S CRISPS:TO MOST IRISH people the word “crisps” means Tayto – but new to the market are Keogh’s Crisps made in North County Dublin by the Keogh family who have been growing potatoes there since the early 1900s. This is not the family’s first foray into innovation. Four years ago they launched a selenium enriched potato which has a growing following among consumers familiar with selenium’s role in maintaining good health.

Tom Keogh is not planning to take on the mighty Largo Foods (which produces Tayto) with his new crisps. His target market is made of consumers interested in Irish artisan products. At the moment the hand-produced crisps available here are imported. “We’re the only on-farm producers of hand-cooked potato crisps in Ireland. We cook them in small batches turning them from crop to crisp on the same day,” Keogh says.

The Keogh family’s primary business is growing and distributing potatoes. But sales of fresh potatoes are in decline – with volumes now half what they were 10 years ago. Bucking the trend for the Keoghs are sales of their selenium potatoes, which grew by 13 per cent last year in an overall market down by 20 per cent.

It was this continuing decline that encouraged the Keoghs to start thinking about using their plentiful supply of raw material to produce an added value product. Crisps won out as they are light and consequently easy to export. To date the family has spent around €750,000 setting up the crisp-making operation.

Three flavours have been launched: Dubliner cheese onion, Atlantic sea salt and Lewellyn’s cider vinegar and Roast beef and Dungarvan Irish stout. “We wanted to keep the product as Irish as possible and to buy as much as we could from local producers,” says Keogh. Eight people are employed on the crisp line and Keogh has plans to double that with the addition of a second shift.

A quirky touch is that Keogh’s Crisps come with “Spud Nav”. This allows the consumer to trace their bag of crisps back to the field where the potatoes were grown by entering the field name (printed on each bag) on the Spud Nav page on the keoghs.iewebsite.