Once upon a time, crisps came in salt and vinegar or cheese and onion flavours. Supermarket shoppers in Britain can now enjoy a limited edition shamrock-flavoured variety.
Keogh's shamrock & sour cream crisps have been on sale in 700 Tesco stores in Britain since last week, after the retailer placed a ¤250,000 order.
The Keoghs, who have grown potatoes for more than 200 years at their farm in Oldtown, Co Dublin, have received smaller orders for the shamrock variety – produced to coincide with St Patrick's Day – from luxury store Selfridges. More have been exported to Hong Kong, China, Dubai, the US and Germany.
Shamrock tastes "like garlic", says Tom Keogh, a director and "crisp connoisseur" of the family-run firm. "It was an idea that I had at Christmas 2011 when I wanted to launch a range of seasonal flavours."
Shamrock-growers were bemused by the family's inquiries. Keogh then contacted Ballinskelligs, Co Kerry-based Peter Martin of Living Shamrock, which has supplied the White House with shamrock for St Patrick's Day since 1952.
The garlic flavours found in early tests of the Kerry shamrock were promising, but “it wasn’t nice enough on its own, while a number of combinations didn’t work either until we joined it with sour cream”, says Keogh. “It just worked. We knew straight away.”
The first crisps were produced last March – early enough to show that they had a hit, but too late for significant sales around the St Patrick's celebrations. Later, a man approached a Keogh's stall at a Tesco conference in Clontarf Castle and asked to try a sample. "He said he had tasted nothing like it," said Keogh. The man, it turned out, was Tesco chief executive Philip Clarke.
The Keoghs began to consider making crisps in 2006 after plans to export their raw potatoes to the US ran into difficulties due to food regulations and restrictions there.
"There was no way of getting raw potatoes into the US, but then an official in the Food and Drug Administration's office in New Jersey said, 'Why don't you cook them?'" said Keogh.
The family-run business developed crisp varieties including roast beef and Dungarvan Irish stout; Dubliner Irish cheese & onion; and Atlantic Sea Salt and Irish cider vinegar. The shamrock variety is the latest.
“We sleep, eat, and breathe potatoes,” said Keogh.