Hi all you crisp lovers!
Svenska LantChips have been a part of Swedish society for 25 years now. As we are also getting older, we think it is appropriate to take a little look back at how we have spent our time and at the opportunities that popped up over the years.
You’re very welcome to join us on our adventure!
/ Michael Hansen
The history of Svenska LantChips
- The dream of a life centred round the family
- Crisp fryer à la Svenska LantChips
- The first 40 crisp packets for the village shop in Ed
- A sustainable enterprise and support for vulnerable children
- The adventure moved on to Åmål
- The little company gets a big buddy
- An organic pioneer
- New factory, new adventures
- The organic market in Sweden
- Sweden’s first online shop for crisps
The dream of a life centred round the family
Before we started Svenska LantChips, my wife Signhild and I worked as civil servants in our respective areas of the community. Together with our three young boys, we lived like everyone else does, with structured working hours and little time for our children. Our eldest boy Richard had special needs and much of our time was devoted to running around seeing doctors, physiotherapists and speech therapists, and attending endless tests and investigations. It was not sustainable in the long term, and after a few years we realised that we had to choose between our jobs and taking care of our children. It really is essential to be fit and strong if you have to take care of small children’s needs at the same time, especially if one of them was not particularly lucky with what nature dictated at his birth. We were forced into being able to control our own working hours because all our healthcare visits were during the day, precisely when we ourselves had to be at work securing our earnings. We decided to make our family our first priority, even if that meant it would cost us our success in the community.
As the son of the owner of a small business, I knew the advantages and disadvantages of becoming self-employed, leaving the secure existence of being an employee and investing all of your earthly assets as equity to start a company and borrow money from the bank. Failure would lead to large debts that would cost us our future. Yet the project was not as crazy as it might sound. In an oligopolistic market, there are often opportunities to take a chance on. We decided that the crisp industry, with its very few players, could do with a little competition!
A disused dairy in Dalsland was the starting point of our adventure and our journey to take our place among the crisp giants. What the giants had done we decided to do differently; we did our manufacturing by hand, and the products were crispier, were more golden and had more flavour than industrially manufactured crisps. We kept the starch in our crisps, and our flavoured varieties contained pure and natural spices, without flavour-enhancing agents. The way we presented our products was pretty unprofessional, really, but it was honest, and we introduced something completely new into the sector: subdued design and kraft paper bags. The shops said ‘no thanks’, and probably thought we were a rather odd outfit that was introducing itself.
But the adventure was not over for us. We stuck to our guns, and my young brother-in-law Robert started selling in Stockholm. Then things started to get going – he drove around in his old Ford and got to know every single shop owner in town. What a guy! Just 20 years old, and with no sales experience. Maybe it was precisely because of that, his being inexperienced but reliable – and a nice person: he won the shops’ trust, and has since become the rock the rest of us in the company have been able to rely on when times have got tough. Robert has always been resilient, a strong, friendly and inspiring leader, and has for the past ten years been the quintessential, excellent CEO that every company would wish they had.
“We wanted to work together and be near our children, and at the same time to give them an understanding of how important it is to work hard.”
We always searched for second-hand machines that we could use in the crisp factory (a brand new line costing SEK 50 million did not come into question). The search took us out on many adventurous journeys, and we had plenty of fun!
“Estrella and OLW were already in the market. We wanted to do something new for rural shops.”
Crisp fryer à la Svenska LantChips
It didn’t take us long to realise that our first little crisp fryer from Canada could be improved and made much more energy-efficient. It was Robert and Signhild’s father Bo Arnegård who, a few years later, made a technical drawing, and Robert who then constructed the deep fryer itself. We had realised right from the outset that there were many other ways of manufacturing crisps than the prevailing industrial way. We chose to slice the potatoes with the skin on and then fry them immediately without first removing the starch (the potato juice). The potatoes were fried at a lower temperature so that the starch would not burn and turn to sugar. The outcome was a crispy and slightly darker crisp that had a genuine potato flavour. In addition, the crisps became lower in fat content compared to ordinary crisps. Over the years we continued to develop new technology, new procedures and new varieties of crisps.
“We continue to manufacture new deep fryers. We are continuously thinking about how things can be done better. When we need inspiration, we sometimes go back to Bo’s old drawings and see his way of thinking.”
The first 40 crisp packets for the village shop in Ed
We started manufacturing our first crisps in the spring of 1992. We were delighted to note that the crisps were really delicious. So delicious that we reckoned we could actually sell the product! Forty crisp packets were delivered to the local village shop in Ed. The crisps quickly proved to be a success and soon sold out. But none of the food chains would accept the products, so we only sold to individual rural shops in Dalsland and on the west coast.
“It has been both more difficult and more exciting than we imagined it would be, but now, many years later, it feels fantastic that we dared to do it, and that so much good came out of our family project.”
A sustainable enterprise and support for vulnerable children
When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, we could see on TV all the orphan children suffering there, and we were really moved by the situation. So we decided that a large part of any potential profit should go to SOS Children’s Villages, where both we and our children had sponsored children ourselves. We actively supported the organisation – both financially and in terms of personal involvement – right from the start.
“We are really family-orientated, so it’s not particularly far-fetched that we should want to help orphans in different countries.”
The adventure moved on to Åmål
After two years we had definitely grown out of the old dairy in Ed. We continued our expansion in Dalsland and built the new factory in Åmål. It was built and customised to our requirements, and it was great to be able to be an important little cog in a small community like Åmål.
The little company gets a big buddy
Early on we made contact with some great guys at IKEA who were really helpful. Getting into their range was a dream for a little company like ours. As of 1994, we have been able to follow IKEA’s success story out in the world, for many years with our own brand but now under theirs. Having IKEA as a customer has meant that we dared to establish independent factories in different countries and on different continents. We are proud and grateful to be able to collaborate with such an excellent company, and they have always set high standards for us. Thanks to them, we have become ever more efficient, and more quality-orientated.
In the 1990s we also delivered our crisps to McDonald´s and had to match our quality level to their requirements, which was extremely helpful for our quality procedures. So we have been very lucky in becoming more professional. In 1994-95 we received our first orders from the large Swedish supermarket chains. This has made us a little more visible out on the shop shelves here in Sweden.
“IKEA wanted to promote something Swedish and artisanal.”
An organic pioneer
The hunt for the perfect crisp product inspired us to new innovations. In 1994 we were first on the market – in fact maybe even one of the very first in the world – to manufacture organic crisps. A large and increasing proportion of our production is organic.
“Seizing opportunities is an important part of what we do, and of our success.”
New factory, new adventures
In 1999 we moved to Södertälje. We had grown out of our premises in Åmål, but continued production there even after we had started to move to Södertälje. Many people opted to move here with us, and in particular Anna-Lena from Åmål and Klause from Denmark were loyal to us for many years. We have got to know and worked with many wonderful people over the years, and many have been with us for a very long time. We have expanded, building factories abroad, and our group includes large international customers with whom we would only have been able to dream of collaborating in the early days.
Yet the day-to-day is characterised by the convivial atmosphere of the small company. Many excellent employees have provided support and help to the company, and many have played a significant part in creating Svenska LantChips as a whole, as it is today.
“I started working at Svenska LantChips in 1999, in the new factory. There were seven of us then, and we worked a day shift from 10 in the morning till 6 in the evening. We sorted the crisps, removing the soft and blotchy ones. Changed date rollers and added spices. All by hand.”
The organic market in Sweden
The Swedish market in organic crisps has experienced considerable growth so the future looks bright. 2014 marked a new awareness of organic crisps – it would seem they are now seriously here to stay.
“The trend towards organic products is increasing enormously, and organic variants constitute about 30% of our current production. Demand for organic products is growing more and more, especially here in Sweden. Consumers have greater awareness these days.”
Sweden’s first online shop for crisps
In 2016 we became the first company in Sweden to launch our own online shop for crisps. Now consumers have easy access to the whole range and are not dependent on what is available in their local shops. Above all, the service makes it possible to buy organic potato crisps, which can be a bit more difficult to find in shops. Many people also have difficulty getting hold of our vegetable mixtures (those colourful crisps we make from carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes and beetroot). Everything can be ordered online now, and it is clear that we have been on our way into a new epoch for a considerable length of time. Yet we hope that in a hundred years’ time we will be able to write “Epochs may come and go, but Svenska LantChips endure!”
“We get a lot of enquiries and the new online shop is a service we provide for our customers. A platform where we can interact with customers when there are no ordinary physical shops nearby. It is also expected to have a positive effect on sales in the retail food sector.”
We want to thank all of you who have sent us feedback over the years – we have received many constructive suggestions in terms of crisp varieties, raw materials and techniques. We want to be “the little company” that has not lost its soul through wanting to sell more and more products at any price in an ever-shorter time frame. When we started, we did so with the intention of being a good citizen and contributing to a good society. You help us with all of that.
Thank you for your kind support!
From all of us here at Svenska LantChips,