Marks and Spencer Group plc
Address: Waterside House, 35 North Wharf Road, London, W2 1NW
Phone: 020 7935 4422
Email: Website contact form
Marks & Spencer
Michael Marks was a Polish-Jewish pogrom refugee who left Belarus for England in the late 19th century. Sir John Barran employed Marks, and other such refugees for his company, Barran in the North of England. In 1884, while looking for work, Marks met Isaac Jowitt Dewhirst. The five pounds Dewhirst lent Marks to start his Penny Bazaar in Leeds, would be the first step to what we see now as Marks & Spencer. Dewhirst’s cashier was Tom Spencer. In 1894, Marks invited Spencer to be his partner in a new stall in Leeds’ covered market.
In 1901, the pair moved to Birkenhead, where they took up adjacent stalls in the open market. Just two years later they opened another Penny Bazaar. They opened several market stalls throughout the North West of England over the next few years. The business grew in prominence and recognition and it became colloquially known as ‘Marks & Sparks’. They only sold British made goods (an activity that continued until 2002), and they introduced their own St. Michael brand in 1928. By 1950, virtually all goods were sold under the "St Michael" label.
The company has enjoyed its ups and downs throughout its history, but it is a reliable British brand that has attracted generations of UK and Irish shoppers.
Overseas operations have had mixed fortunes, but the company is constantly updating itself to remain at the forefront of the British shopping experience.
Food retailing is aimed at a similar high-end level as Waitrose, and the Crisps range is massive. At the time of writing, it had as many different ranges within their private labelled branding as any Potato Crisps manufacturer operating in the British market.
Marks & Spencer Hand Cooked Lightly Sea
A Nose Plunge Test revealed an oily potato scent. I believe the flavour description to be vital, so am always intrigued by lightly salted options. By whose measure?, is always the pertinent question. M&S's private label company were true to their word - These were lightly salted oily potato crisps. The aftertaste was of greasy potato.
Marks & Spencer Simply Lightly Salted
A first crisp was so salty that I was concerned about trying a second. Fortunately, this was an oddity. No others were as salty as that one, but the reality for munchers was these were not nearly 'lightly' salted. They were heavily salted crisps.
Marks & Spencer Simply Cheese & Onion
A Nose Plunge Test featured a strange aroma. It smelled as much of ham or some other mildly aromatic meat, as it did of cheese. The taste was an improvement. There was a very good balance between mild cheddar and mild onion. This was also sustained throughout the eating process.
Marks & Spencer Simply Salt & Vinegar
A Nose Plunge Test featured a mild stinging sniff of vinegar. The taste was a very well-balanced combo of potato, salt and vinegar. However, the taste was so mild it did not really feature on a comparison chart. Having said that, there was a nice aftertaste.
Marks & Spencer Count on us Sea Salt &
Malt Vinegar Crisps
Low in fat and low in flavour. It is a fashion for manufacturers to offer this lower fat type of crisp as a snack option. As sales have gone through the roof, all crisps makers seem to be joining in. However, the average bag of crisps is often higher in other areas of the nutrition label. It's obviously all about marketing and sales numbers rather than flavour though, because apart from a slight vinegary sweetness, these tasted of burned potatoes. They were not very pleasant at all.
Marks & Spencer Count on us Sour Cream
& Chive Crisps
I will replicate much of what I wrote about the other variety of M&S Count On Us Crisps because it also applies here . . . Low in fat and low in flavour. These crisps were not very pleasant. They had higher sugar and salt content than M&S equivalent regular crisps, so it is not as if you gain nutritionally for the sacrifice of flavour.
Marks & Spencer Cheese Tasters
Very cheesy, but roof of mouth sticky and absolutely loaded with sugar.
Marks & Spencer Ready Salted Potato
Okay, I should be honest about these Potato Snacks. I remember them fondly from childhood and the recipe appears to have remained the same. They are thoroughly moreish with exactly the right balance between Salt and Potato. I believe they used to be called Chipsticks, but I could be wrong.
Marks & Spencer Hand Cooked Prawn
A Nose Plunge Test revealed a spicy tomato-based sauce aroma. Prawn cocktail is an odd one for testing purposes, given that they never taste of prawns, but instead the sauce they are often covered with. There was a mild, sweet, and spicy background to a tomato and onion dominated mix of ingredients.
Marks & Spencer Hand Cooked Sea Salt & Cracked Black Pepper
A Nose Plunge Test revealed an oily pepper redolence. There was a fair balance between the salt and the pepper when tasting, which is more important. However, the overwhelming flavour was of oily potato.
Marks & Spencer Hand Cooked Sea Salt &
A Nose Plunge Test revealed a calming vinegar. Not strong, but pleasant. Some crisps were a little more seasoned than others, but none featured an overwhelming flavour of potato, salt, or vinegar. It was a well-balanced effort, that was mild, maybe even slightly sweet, but strong enough to dive in for more.
Marks & Spencer Full on Flavour Sweet
Thai Chilli Crisps
On the front of the bag, it said the flavour was sweet Thai chilli. On the reverse, it said the flavour was sweet Thai chilli and coriander. Odd. The packaging designer must have got a little confused because there was certainly no sign of any coriander in what was a quite irresistible combination of ingredients that bounced from syrupy sweet to mild chilli. It was a sweet chilli dip style crisp that left equally rewarding ginger, and maybe even a lime-infused sweet chilli aftertaste.
Marks & Spencer Full on Flavour Wasabi &
Spring Onion Crisps
A Nose Plunge Test revealed an onion smell. Oddly, there was not much onion taste. However, the crisp could be forgiven for this because it’s hard to take the words ‘Spring’ and ‘Onion’ seriously when ‘Wasabi’ is mentioned alongside them. As for the wasabi, well yes, not strong, but it was wasabi. It’s a difficult one for crisps manufacturers – Should a hot and spicy crisp be too hot for some potential purchasers? I am quite strict on this – Yes. If you’re gonna name a hot flavour, make ‘em hot.
Marks & Spencer The Big Crinkle Flame
Grilled Steak & Onion
Flame grilled steak sounds a little specific. The food scientists must have spent an age differentiating between normal steak flavour and ‘flame-grilled' steak. Well no, they didn't. It is a glamorous sounding positioning description. They did taste a bit beefy, maybe even slightly spicy. They were even quite enjoyable, but they tasted absolutely nothing like the description on the bag.
Marks & Spencer Hand Cooked Prawn Tom
Yum Potato Crisps Fragrantly Spiced with
Lemongrass, Ginger & a Hint of Chilli
A Nose Plunge Test revealed an aroma similar to a welcoming Thai restaurant kitchen - Nothing specific, but certainly enticing. With so many flavours included it would take a very well-paid gastronomer to describe these accurately. As a crisp enthusiast with lots (and lots) of experience of trying and describing crisps I may be well placed to describe flavours by now, but I would not claim the skills required to pick out each of these flavours. The ginger was evident, as was the lemongrass. The hint of chilli must have been just that - A hint. I would say it was a pleasant, while generically muted Thai flavouring. The best aspect was undoubtedly the longest descriptive crisps name in the world.
Marks & Spencer Reduced Fat Sour Cream
& Chive Crisps
A Nose Plunge Test was a very rewarding experience. I smelled cheese and chives. Excellent. I should mention the ‘Reduced Fat’ claim before continuing – It didn’t say what it was reduced from. The nutrition label suggested a standard crisp with an average amount of fat, saturation, and sugar. The flavour was reminiscent of the aroma. It was a worthy, if a little tame cheese, and unlike many crisps of this variety, the chive was also easily found.
Marks & Spencer Cornish Cruncher
Cheddar & Pickled Onion
I had to have a doubletake of the bag to confirm the contents. There was a cheesiness, but instead of pickle, or even pickled onion, there was a tart lemon or lime backdrop. Admittedly, pickled onion is supposed to have similar elements, but this was unmistakable – Cheese and Lime. If they had managed to add a little tangy sweetness, they could have claimed cheese and lime pickle, which would have obviously been nearer the flavour, and a rather innovative and interesting variety. I should add, these were nice tasting crisps but suffered from unintentional mislabelling.
Marks & Spencer Great British Summer Fish
& Chips Crisps
A Nose Plunge Test featured a rather surprising aroma - The freshly opened bag smelled very similar to an unwrapped bag of fish and chips. I licked a chip and found an equally surprising result - It tasted like fried fish. Surely not? I am so used to chips and crisps not tasting like these innovative, and sometimes weird flavours, that these caught me by surprise. They tasted like salty, vinegary, greasy fish and chips, which was not necessarily a good thing.
Marks & Spencer Venison Red Wine &
Juniper Hand Cooked
There was not much impact when the bag was opened, but surely these crisps could not possibly disappoint? It is rare that I come across such an exciting sounding flavour. The texture certainly promised plenty. Even the ingredients list read like a who’s who of fancy crisps flavourings. There was dried cooked venison, ground spices that included: Cayenne pepper, coriander, cardamom, and even lemon oil. Oh deer (geddit), the flavour was a beef stock with a peppery and even salty twist. Possibly one of the most eagerly anticipated, but ultimately disappointing crisps varieties I have tested.
Marks & Spencer Great British Summer
Beef Burger Crisps
A Nose Plunge Test featured a beef stock aroma. At first taste, they resembled a similar beefy sort of flavour. Then it appeared to develop into mustard flavoured beef. A few crisps in and it finally took the shape of a greasy burger. It is not for me to say whether this interesting variety of flavours was inspirational, or a little misguided.
Marks & Spencer Blacksticks Blue Cheese
& Figgy Pickle
A combo flavouring that tasted of nothing identifiable but wasn’t altogether unpleasant. It would take a supreme taste tester to identify individual flavours here. Which is, of course, unnecessary for the rest of us.