- A series of experiments with spent grains, a by-product of malted barley, gave birth to Plato’s, a grains crisp brand.
- Its founder Christo Worst wanted to create a snack to enjoy with beer, using an ingredient derived from the beer-making process.
- The chip maker collects around 24 tons of spent grain from Cape-based Darling Brew annually, making 6.5 tons of crisps a month.
- For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.
For many, by-products generated from food-making processes may be seen as mere waste, but not for Christo Worst, the founder and CEO of Plato’s, a South African grain crisp made from tons of spent grain from one of Cape Town’s breweries.
Each year, Plato’s collects approximately 24 tons of left-over malted barley grains from Darling Brew, a beer maker in the Western Cape, and turns them into flavoursome snacking crisps.
Before it became a viable product and started earning retail space in the likes of Checkers and Dis-Chem, Worst had been toying with the idea of exploiting the potential for by-products for a while.
While working for Bühler, a Swiss food processing equipment manufacturer, Worst got immersed into the world of by-products and their different uses and attempted making cereal from maize germ, a highly nutritional by-product of maize meal production.
In the process, he got introduced to spent grains and wanted to create a snack that could be enjoyed with beer, in a perfect marriage between the two.
“I believe you have to match the two worlds; if you can match the two worlds, then you have a product people instantly recognise or [will] be drawn to. You’ve got the beer industry, and everybody has a snack while having a beer,” Worst said.
After settling on the idea of the chips, Worst spent months experimenting with upcycled spent grains, mixing other raw ingredients that landed him on what he says tasted like cardboard at the start.
“It was a major back and forth,” he admits.
“[It took about] about three months; and that was [me] trying to get the spent grain to actually bind to something else, combining it with different other raw material to get a proper base to work from, trying different oils,” said Worst.
The making of the grain crisps
Plato’s crisps are manufactured by canola oil company Southern Oil, which owns the brand in part.
Typically, brewers throw out between 0.2kg and 0.25kg of spent grain from every litre of beer produced. The tons Plato’s gets from Darling Brew, it gets fresh, while still hot.
“It’s important for us that we use fresh spent grain,” Worst said.
“Other suppliers of spent grain products dry out the spent grain to give it shelf life, to be able to sell it as flour. But we use it as it is. The other reason is, because spent grain is a wet product, we can actually utilise that moisture for a second time,” he said.
Unlike other crisp manufacturers who add water in the process, Plato’s doesn’t use water.
The grains get ground down into smaller pieces before starting the chip-making process as it arrives at Plato’s plant.
“Once it’s been collected and it comes to our facility… There is a bit of a process that it goes through to make sure that it’s easier to work with, but we don’t change the chemical composition of the spent grain,” Worst said.
Once the spent grain is mixed with other ingredients, it is formed into a dough that gets rolled into a thin sheet and later cut into the shape of Plato’s crisps.
“…We dry it out in the oven, and that then allows us to just flash fry. That keeps our fat content nice and low,” said Worst.The flash-frying process keeps the fat content in the crisps relatively low, at 50% lower than regular potato chips available in the market.
The crisps are then seasoned and packed.
“We want to expand on the Plato’s range, the snack category, other types of crisps, and then crackers cookies. We’re also looking at a popular fermented drink,”
The company, which makes 6.5 tons of Plato’s crisps monthly, is working on expanding its product categories to include snacks such as cracker cookies and different types of crisps. It is also working on a fermented drink.
The company currently makes three flavours; Jalapeño Chutney, Mature Cheddar and Smoked BBQ. It also makes crisps for Darling Brew under that brand.