Sørlandschips: Crisps with personality
By Alyssa Nilsen | Photos: Sørlandschips
Sustainability, a low environmental footprint, innovation, local produce and crisps full of personality and flair: Norwegian crisp brand Sørlandschips is paving its own way making one of Norway’s most-loved snacks.
The story of Sørlandschips is like a modern fairytale. Co-founder Leif Arne’s friend returned to the south-coast town of Kristiansand from a holiday in Canada, carrying a plastic bag full of kettle crisps. Sharing the goods with his friends, the group mused on how inconvenient it would be to have to travel back to Canada every time they craved the thick, crunchy golden flakes that were unlike any other crisps they’d ever tried. “We’ll just have to make them ourselves then!” Leif Arne shrugged. And so they did – slicing potatoes, skin and all, dousing them in peanut oil and baking them slowly in the oven. Sørlandschips was born, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Some 30 years later, Sørlandschips has become one of the biggest and best loved crisp brands in Norway and is the country’s defining brand in kettle crisps.
Selling not only locally in Kristiansand but also nationwide, it has become one of the staples of the Norwegian concept of ‘lørdagsgodt’, or ‘Saturday treats’.
Sørlandschips was the first brand to introduce Norway to the concept of kettle crisps, the rustic crisp style that uses the whole potato, rather than peeling off the skin before cooking. This not only adds to the taste and texture, but helps to battle food waste on an impressive scale. “It benefits both the flavour and the environmental footprint of the crisps,” says CMO Daniel Bernstein. “We save more than ten million potatoes’ worth of food waste per year, just from keeping the peel on the potato. What’s more, it allows us to use both smaller and larger potatoes than in ‘normal’ crisp production – so we save another five million potatoes per year, there. That’s 15 million potatoes!”
The potatoes are locally sourced from 50 nearby farms. The farmers bring their potatoes to the factory, and just 27 minutes later they can walk out with a bag of crisps made from their own potatoes, and labelled with the name of their own farm.
Adventurous and playful
Not only is minimising their environmental footprint important to Sørlandschips, the local community is too. The brand contributes by training, employ ing and providing language courses to immigrants. This led to a 2021 nomination for Mangfoldsprisen, a prize award ed by the Norwegian government for outstanding use of immigrants’ skills in working life. “Having immigrants as part of our workforce brings a whole new warmth and joy to the factory,” says Bernstein. “We are that little crisps factory that is also a family.”
With a multitude of flavours, two different types of crisps (the original and the world’s thinnest version of the original), vegan options and a concept unlike any other, Sørlandschips has charmed its way into people’s hearts. The bags all feature individual cartoon-like crisp characters – each with its own distinct personality to match the flavours. The sea-salt crisp hangs out on a sunny beach while salt and vinegar wears a sixpence and walks a dog draped in the Union Jack past a London phone booth.
Rather than the straight, thin, rounded flakes most brands present, Sørlandschips’ crisps are wonky, curly, folded and perfectly imperfect. A few years ago, the brand polled Norwegians to find out whether they preferred the straight or the bent crisps… and bent crisps won by a landslide.
This adventurous and playful spirit is also shared by the flavours. Sørlandschips has the familiar favourites, like sea salt, crème fraîche, and sea salt and vinegar – but also some more unusual ones like jalapeno and crème fraîche, and sea salt and truffle. A couple of times a year, special-edition crisps are released. This winter, two new varieties representing Sweden and Norway will go head-to-head in a friendly sporting battle: from Norway, sausage with ketchup (an homage to the popular Norwegian winter-sports-spectator snack), and from Sweden, dill and chives (a favourite crisp flavour in the neighbouring land).
In the autumn of 2022, Sørlandschips launched a new limited-edition flavour called Verdens Tynneste Sørlandschips Hockeypulver, flavoured with a well-es tablished liquorice candy powder called Hockeypulver. “Our plant manager Kjar tan Rønvik (#ChipsKjartan) published it as a series of videos on TikTok and it went viral with close to 500,000 views!” recounts Bernstein. “We see this as a confirmation of the interest and love of our brand.”
Meanwhile, Leif Arne, the co-founder and the face of Sørlandschips, is still as involved as ever – not only in terms of the production, but also via social media, music videos, live performances and other appearances, tying it all together and giving the brand that personal, local touch.
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