I can’t remember a single trip to Kerala when I did not come back with a packet or two of fresh banana chips. In the ‘80s and ‘90s, when I used to travel to Kochi (or Cochin, as it was then) very frequently, I would head to a favourite shop in one of the narrow side lanes ( and side lanes in Kerala can be very narrow), order the banana chips, watch in fascination as the bananas were being sliced, thrown into the boiling oil and packed in my presence. A separate 250 gm packet would be packed for consumption in the train and would vanish before the train reached Trichur.
So, for me to think of Kerala without the banana chip is rather tough.
That’s why I was dismayed at first when I read that Kerala’s banana chip was under threat from potato wafers made by global brands. The vacuum-packing, the standardizing, the longer shelf-life make the potato wafers far easier to transport, stock and market. And youngsters seem to be switching over in droves.
The heart-warming thing is that the banana chip makers are fighting back, as this report says:
The traditional banana and tapioca chips industry in Kerala worth around 750 crore is in a changeover mode. Under threat from brands like Lays and Bingo, the local industry is trying to make banana chips more appealing to the young generation.
"Attractive packaging, convenience and a variety of flavours have lured youngsters to potato chips. To win them back to our traditional snacks, we too have to upgrade," said Alex Thomas, managing director of the newly-launched Tierra Food India. The company is coming out with 10-15 flavours in trendy packets with prices from 5 to 20 to beat competition from potato chips.
Way to go, guys. You have my unstinted support.