Has Scotland’s love affair with chips gone off the boil?

Chips with everything - depending on social class. Picture: Michael Gillen
Chips with everything - depending on social class. Picture: Michael Gillen
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Who eats the most chips and how often? ScotCen Social Research has been finding out

As a nation, it sometimes seems that we’ll eat anything as long as we can serve it with chips, with many not just enjoying the traditional fish supper but finding that even pakoras, haggis or curries are preferred with a sizeable helping of chips on the side. But does actual data support the claim we’re a nation of chip lovers and what types of people eat them most?

One of the sources of data to help answer these questions is the Scottish Government’s Scottish Health Survey. As well as providing data on prevalence of certain conditions, physical activity and other issues, this comprehensive survey of the Scottish population run by ScotCen also looks at what people are eating.

So, what proportion of the adult population in Scotland eats chips at least twice a week? Our most recent data shows that just under a third (31 per cent) of Scottish adults do this, with roughly similar proportions saying they eat cake at least twice a week (34 per cent). In comparison, just one in five (20 per cent) meet the five-a-day recommendations.

When we look into the data in more detail, we see that men are considerably more likely to tuck into a plate of chips than women. Exactly a quarter of women (25 per cent) had chips more than once a week compared to well over a third of men (37 per cent), a much bigger difference than for other foods that are high in fat or sugar like biscuits, non-diet soft drinks and ice cream. For cakes, crisps, sweets and chocolate there was no discernible difference at all in consumption between men and women.

Looking at the data by age group showed that almost half of all 16-24s ate chips twice a week, with this being particularly true for males.

In some analysis undertaken by ScotCen we had a look to see whether chip consumption is higher in less deprived areas than more deprived ones. This analysis is not as straightforward as it may sound. Knowing that young people tend to eat chips more often means we need to make sure that each set of deprived areas is similar in terms of age.

When we analysed our results they showed that adults in the most deprived areas were about twice as likely to eat chips than those in the least deprived areas. However, even in the least deprived areas we found that about a fifth of adults (22%) were eating chips at least twice a week.

So, are there any signs that the nation’s love affair with the chip is ending?

While it is difficult to hypothesise about future events with any certainty the survey shows that the proportion of adults eating chips has not really changed since 2008. Moreover, there have also been no signs of decline in consumption of other foods high in fat.

• Diarmid Campbell-Jack is Research Director at ScotCen Social Research.