Updated On: November 07, 2023 by Ciaran Connolly
When you come to Ireland you might notice something that is pretty much everywhere. This is Tayto, Ireland’s most loved and famous crisps. You can’t come to Ireland without trying a packet of the tasty Tatyo Crisps that come in many different flavours. Although their most popular favourite is its original – Cheese and Onion Tayto, you just can’t beat it. If you haven’t tried them yet on a trip to Ireland its seriously a must.
Surprisingly many people are unaware of the global significance Tayto crisps has around the world. Tayto crisps were actually the first ever seasoned potato chips in the world. Which is pretty incredible for a small manufacturing company in Ireland at the time. With flavour and innovating, Tayto helped to revolutionise the taste of crisps all around the globe.
So we are going to take you through the incredible journey that brought Tayto crisps to the world. From its history and how the iconic crisps went on to become a national treasure and one of the biggest selling brands in Ireland.
The History of Tatyo
The remarkable history of Tayto all begins in 1954 with the opening of the first Tayto crisp factory in Dublin. The original factory was opened by Tayto founder, Joe ‘Spud’ Murphy. It was a time when most of the crisps imported came from the UK and were unflavoured. Although some had a small bag of salt within the crisp bag to help enhance flavours for people.
Murphy had spotted a unique opportunity in the Irish market, to start creating Irish crisps and so he opened up his own crisp factory in the heart of Dublin. Joe Murphy was the genius behind the idea to season crisps. These were, of course, the first ever Cheese and Onion Flavoured Crisps.
The Man Behind Tayto Crisps
Murphy’s love for crisps was one of the many reasons for his success and inventions. He found the crisp products on offer at the time lacked flavour and creativity which sparked him to create better flavours for the Irish people. And so he launched his own crisp company called ‘Tayto’ in the Republic of Ireland.
The name itself comes from Joe Murphy’s son, who as a child pronounced ‘potato’ as ‘Tayto’ which soon became very clever in marketing campaigns. Tayto later became known throughout Ireland as the equivalent word to crisps – a real mark of the brand’s success. They also created ‘Mr Tayto’ the brand mascot, who also became a very iconic part of the brand and was included in many of their marketing campaigns.
Murphy first started his crisp business on O’Rahilly’s Parade in Dublin with one van and eight employees. Many of which continued to work for Joe Murphy for an impressive 30 years.
Seamus Burke one of Joe’s first employees helped to perfect the new inventive flavour of crisps. Burke experimented with many flavours and tastes before he came up with the much-loved cheese and onion flavour, which his boss Murphy deemed as acceptable. The newly seasoned crisps were a success and many companies from all around the world sought to buy the Tayto techniques to do the same.
The biggest issue for Joe Murphy was how he would get his exciting new products on the market. He found a solution by connecting with the Findlater family who owned 21 grocery markets around Ireland. The Findlater family took Murphy up on his offer to sell the crisps in their stores. As well as agreeing to sell them onto other outlets as they had connections with the commercial travellers.
The was just the start of Murphy becoming one of Ireland’s best and loved entrepreneurs and creating one of the famous Irish brands to ever exist ‘Tayto’.
Joe Murphy’s Life
A little background on Murphy is vital to understand how he became a great businessman. Joe Murphy was born on the 15th of May 1923 in Dublin. He most likely got his entrepreneur interests from his father who owned a small building business.
Murphy left school at the age of 16 and went to work at James J Fox and Co branch in Dublin. They were cigar and cigarette sellers original from London, while there Murphy worked behind the shop counter. Murphy was ambitious even at a young age and soon the youngster rented a small office close to Grafton Street. Here he began to use his talents to find a gap in the market that he could utilise for himself.
One of his great ideas was to start importing the popular British drink ‘Ribena’ which at the time wasn’t available in Ireland. This was a great success for Murphy and he continued to find more gaps in the market that he could bring over to Ireland. He successfully imported ball-point pens to the country.
The Arrival of Tayto
His invention for Tayto cheese and onion came in the late 1950s, but not only was the success of the revolutionary crisps at home but also abroad. Within a short period of two years, he had to move to bigger premises because of the Tayto demand. Tayto continued to expand in 1960. This is because the sales of the first three flavours; cheese and onion, salt and vinegar and smokey bacon were massive.
The biggest driving force behind Tayto was of course Murphys innovation and marketing ideas. He became one of the first Irish businessmen to sponsor a programme on Radio Eireann. It was a half hour talk show and during the show, he only advertised his own products.
Another part of his success was when he rented a yellow neo sign for one of his shop premises in Dublin. The Tayto sign became a staple part of the brand and one of Ireland’s most famous advertising symbols during the 60’s and ’70s.
Murphy even used his own children in his marketing drive, by sending them to school with supplies of stationery items with the Tayto logo included. His house was a huge hit during Halloween as local children knew they’d be given bags filled with Tayto crisps.
By the mid-’60s, Murphy was one of the most successful entrepreneurs in Ireland and he wasn’t afraid to enjoy his money. Murphy was often seen driving in a Rolls Royce, who was known for being very kind with his tips. Many doormen around the country would fight to have the privilege to park his car.
Stakes in Tayto
A Chicago food chain known as ‘Beatrice Foods’ bought a huge stake in Tatyo in 1964. With this, the unstoppable success of Tayto continued to flourish.
By the ’70s Tayto had employed over 300 people and in 72′ Murphy bought over the King crisps company. He continued to buy into more companies such as the Smiths Food Group factory in Terenure. At this point, Tayto was the first ever business in Ireland to make and market so-called “extruded snacks”.
In 1983, Murphy sold his stakes in Tayto and retired to a life in Spain, spending the next 18 years of his life in Marbella. He is still celebrated for being one of the world’s greatest crisps pioneers. Even to this very day, Tayto is loved all around Ireland and afar.
Tayto Takeover by Ray Coyle
Up until 2005, Tayto was owned by drinks giant Cantrell & Cochrane Group (C&C) but when they closed their crisp factory they outsourced production from Ray Coyle’s company Largo Foods. The next year Ray Coyle had decided to buy Tayto and King brands in a deal valued at 68 million Euro. The purchase helped to excel and transformed Coyle’s company forever.
His rise to the throne of Tayto is just as remarkable as Joe Murphy. Ray Coyle had started out as a potato farmer in the 70’s. After the prices of potatoes collapsed causing him to be hugely indebted to the bank. He later came up with an innovative idea to help with is his financial struggles. The idea was to hold a raffle to sell his farm.
He ended up selling over 500 hundred tickets for 300 Euro each. This attracted national attention to Ray Coyle and he was able to pay off his debts after selling the farm. Next, for Coyle, he created his own crisp business ‘Largo Foods’ in County Meath. Through his business, he purchased other popular brands along with Tayto such as Perry and Sam Spudz. He also came up with the famous Hunky Dorys brand.
Ray Coyle is also the man behind Ireland’s first and only theme park that is completed based on the Tayto Brand. Tayto has not only became a much-loved crisps brand but also a tourist attraction with the opening of Tayto Park. Coyle had always dreamed of opening up a theme park in Ireland and saw the demand and opportunity as it had been done before.
So Tayto park officially opened in 2010 after Coyle invested 16 million Euro into the Irish park that is located in Ashbourne, Co Meath. He built it close to the Tayto factory so that people could see how the delicious crisps are made.
Tayto park offers an exciting mix of theme park rides, activity centre, exotic zoo and educational facility. In its first year of being opened, Tatyo Park saw more than 240,000 come through its gates.
It was initially a high-risk project but Coyle believed if it was done right it would work well. And so it did, the first easter period saw 25,000 people visit the tourist attraction. It grew to become the sixth most popular fee-paying attraction in Ireland. From 2011 onwards Tayto park has increased in visitors each year.
Tayto Park has become a firm favourite with families and children, offering lots of fun rides and activities, each season the park unveils something new to keep the place as exciting as ever.
Tayto Northern Ireland
If you are travelling around the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland you might notice different packaging on the Tayto crisps. These are actually two different brands, the original Tayto was created by Joe Murphy and two years later the Hutchinson’s family got the license of the name and its recipes to use in Northern Ireland.
They are two separate companies but simply have a similar range of products. There has always been a debate about which Tayto tastes better north or south. People have made their arguments for both but they both taste great.
Tayto; Biggest Brand in the North of Ireland
The Northern Irish Tayto has become the biggest brand of crisps in the country and the third biggest in the United Kingdom. Just like the Republic of Ireland brand their signature flavour of crisps is Cheese and Onion.
The Northern Irish Tayto company is located in the Ulster Countryside of Tandragee in the Tayto Castle where they have been making the adore crisps for over 60 years. Only very few people know about the secret recipe of the crisps that have been passed down through generations.
You can even take a tour of ‘Tatyo Castle’ in Northern Ireland to see how they make the crisps, explore more of its interesting history and try new products. Tayto castle is astonishingly over 500 years old and was once the original home of the Might O’Hanlon clan.
On a tour of the castle, you can uncover all the interesting stories surrounding the Irish clan as well as learning about the history of Tayto crisps in Northern Ireland. A great and fun experience if you’re looking for something to do in Northern Ireland.
Amazing Success of Tayto that keeps Going
Tayto is now a staple name in Ireland life, its impossible to think of the country without associating it with ‘Tayto.’ They are without a doubt one of the best brands of crisps in the world. Tayto themselves proclaim that a lot of their success comes from the continued support and engagement with its consumers.
Mr Tayto, the mascot has helped tremendously, he’s one most recognisable characters and much loved by people of all ages. Mr Tayto is the embodiment of the brand. The characters fun sense of humour has been at the forefront of many Tatyo marketing adverts helping to create an emotional connection with viewers. Of course, the great taste of the crisps is a huge contributor to the success that doesn’t stop growing.
If you’re planning to visit Ireland, you must try out some Tayto crisps and let us know what you think. We might be a bit biased in thinking they’re pretty irresistible. And we’ll let you settle the long debate of where has better tasting Tayto crisps: Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland.
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