Let me tell you something: St. Mary’s banana chips, manufactured by the Jamaica Producers Group Ltd., is really tasty and is a quick pick-me-upper when needed, and so is Nicie’s. But while I may tire of these after a while nothing compares with, and I never tire of (ever!), Chippie’s Original Banana Chips by Native Food Packers Ltd. THE BEST BANANA CHIPS EVER!!! (Okay, calm down now Kerry)
But you don’t have to take my word for it.
A school mate of mine is now living in Jakarta, Indonesia and, in a bout of craving for home, “humbly” (her word) requested a Jamaican care package on her Facebook page with the following specific items: “Walkerswood jerk seasoning-dry and wet; Walkerswood sorrel chutney, Chippie’s banana chips; tamarind balls; ackee in a tin and saltfish.”
Of course, some of the comments following this missive focused on chippies and what I got from all of this was:
Chippie’s banana chips = home/Jamaica
My package to her will be, of course, Chippie’s banana chips, in a mission we’ve titled the “Chippies to Jakarta Mission.” It has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?
This Made in Jamaica product has proven itself to be among the best on the local market since 1964, and can be easily identified with Jamaica, both locally and overseas, just like patties are undeniably synonymous with Jamaica. My youngest sister even uses Chippie’s as a bargaining tool in many of our intense negotiations! (Yeah, so intense it requires one or two Chippie’s from my side to determine the outcome in my favour! She runs a hard bargain!)
So what’s the story behind this crunchy green banana snack?
Native Food Packers Ltd., the manufacturers of Chippie’s Banana Chips, was founded by Mr. Adrian Grant back in 1964. On Sunday, April 23, 1967, the second issue in a series of four supplements by the Jamaica Information Service (JIS) on Jamaican Foods, was published in the Sunday Gleaner. These supplements were “part of a wider campaign designed to focus the attention of the public on the variety and quality of the foods which are being grown, produced or processed in Jamaica” in light of the Government’s restrictions on imports at the time. Page 7 of the supplement focused on Pioneers in Food Processing – Preserves, Juices and Banana Chips. This is what the JIS wrote about Mr. Grant’s small beginnings with Chippie’s banana chips:
… import restrictions have also tended to encourage smaller-scale manufacture. Typical here is Mr. Adrian Grant, accountant and small commission agent, who decided three years ago … to take the plunge into the food processing business. Since then, with his partner, Miss Barbara Chin Yee, he has been building his firm Native Food Packers Limited into a vigorous and most promising enterprise.
Mr. Grant began in the smallest possible way, with a sharp kitchen knife, a few bananas and a household pot, to experiment in the making of banana chips – “just to see how it would come out.” Clearly, the initial attempt was sufficiently successful to lead him, within three months, to invest about £80 in three deep friers, an industrial stove and a mechanical slicer.
It was six months before his banana chips were introduced to the market, but then the six months of patient back-room work were instantly rewarded. The product was a smashing success. The retailers were clamouring for more.
And they still are! In this same article Mr. Grant “estimates that his chips are never on the retailers’ shelves for longer than 48 hours after delivery. Certainly in the Corporate Area he has been obliged to operate a daily delivery service.”
And all of this early success without, it would seem, much in terms of newspaper advertising. I conducted a search on the Gleaner Archives for advertisements about Chippie’s banana chips and I came across these two types in 1967:
Well Mr. Grant, you obviously did something right back in 1964, because in 2012 Chippie’s Original Banana Chips are still flying off the shop and supermarket shelves!
And soon they’ll be in Jakarta, much to my friend’s delight!
Until next time…
Sunday Gleaner, June 25, 1967, pg. 19
Sunday Gleaner, July 2, 1967, pg. 21
JIS (1967) Now Foods Jamaican, Sunday Gleaner, April 23, 1967