Regional potato chips

Today’s bon appétit top story, “Regional Potato Chips You’ve Never Heard Of”:

(#1)

Frito-Lay may rule most supermarket snack aisles, but once upon a time, regional potato chips dominated the American snacking scene. A visit to West Virginia wasn’t complete without a crunchy bag of Mister Bee. Headed to Ohio? Pick up a greasy handful of rippled Ballreich’s “Marcelled” chips. Many local titans aren’t the powerhouses they once were and countless others less fortunate have gone the way of the Marathon Bar, but their deep-fried legacy continues to bubble away on a smaller scale, thanks to online stores. Here are nine you should try, because there’s nothing more patriotic than supporting small businesses while stuffing your face with potato chips.

The nine brands the article looks at:

Frito-Lay may rule most supermarket snack aisles, but once upon a time, regional potato chips dominated the American snacking scene. A visit to West Virginia wasn’t complete without a crunchy bag of Mister Bee. Headed to Ohio? Pick up a greasy handful of rippled Ballreich’s “Marcelled” chips. Many local titans aren’t the powerhouses they once were and countless others less fortunate have gone the way of the Marathon Bar, but their deep-fried legacy continues to bubble away on a smaller scale, thanks to online stores. Here are nine you should try, because there’s nothing more patriotic than supporting small businesses while stuffing your face with potato chips.

More important, potato chips fairly quickly grow stale (unless the makers use additives to retard what the industry calls staling, with the causative / inchoative verb stale ‘make or become stale’), so getting them to consumers quickly is important, a goal served well by local production and distribution. When I was a child in southeastern Pennsylvania, potato chips and pretzels both were mostly produced by lical forms, many of which did home delivery in trucks (usually on a weekly schedule).

One of these was the Wise company. From Wikipedia:

(#2)

Wise Foods, Inc. is a company based in Berwick, Pennsylvania [in Columbia County, southwest of Wilkes-Barre, north of Reading and Allentown], that makes snacks and sells them through retail food outlets in 15 eastern seaboard states, as well as Vermont, Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Washington, D.C. Best known for its several varieties of potato chips, Wise also offers Cheez Doodles, bagged popcorn, tortilla chips, pork rinds, Cheez Waffies, onion rings, Dipsy Doodle chips, Nacho Twisters, Quinlan brand pretzels, and French onion and nacho cheese dips.

… Wise Foods started as Wise Potato Chip Company, founded in Berwick, Pennsylvania, in 1921 by a young man named Earl Wise, Sr.. He owned Wise Delicatessen and began making potato chips as a way to make use of excess potatoes, initially cooking them in his mother’s kitchen,[2] and then selling them to customers in brown paper bags. At the time, potato chips were generally kept in glass display cases, or cracker barrels, and scooped into paper bags for customers. The bags developed grease spots and did not keep the chips fresh for very long, eventually leading to the development of waxed paper bags. Wise’s chips proved an immediate hit with customers and soon the delicatessen owner became a regional potato chip mogul. He decided on an owl as a company mascot, a creature reputed to be “wise,” the stylized eye of which remains the corporate logo. He had his first delivery truck by 1922, and opened his first production plant in 1925.

From its local beginnings, Wise expanded and was eventually largely swept into big snack firms, though it’s still mostly an eastern, rather than national, company..

Now three potato chip firms that are still focused in an area that includes Reading, the land of my childhood.

Martin’s. From the company site, with some enthusiastic ad copy:

(#3)

Central Pennsylvania is considered by many to be the snack food capital of the world. Enjoying the benefit of the rich loamy soil, farmers had to find ways to use their excess crops. From the farm kitchen of Harry and Fairy Martin, back in 1941, a unique potato chip found its way into the hearts and homes of York County. Business soon outgrew the kitchen. The Martini’s built a small factory and expanded their distribution from delivering fresh daily to market stands, to also selling to mom and pop grocery stores.

In 1971 the business was sold to Ken and Sandy Potter with the Martin family remaining as employees. The Potter’s had a dream, of expanding the business outside the York area. By 1977 the delivery routes increased from one to five, covering York, Lancaster, Dauphin, and Adams counties. As Martin’s grew through the 80s and 90’s, the combination of quality products and superior service proved to be successful.

Today over 50 routes operate from the distribution facilities in Reading, Allentown, Williamsport, Lancaster, and Hagerstown, MD to ensure products are delivered fresh daily. We also have distribution serving Pittsburgh, Altoona, Philadelphia, New York and Virginia.

Good’s. From the company site:

(#4)

What is the difference between “Red Good’s” and “Blue Good’s”? Basically, it’s the temperature at which the chips are cooked. The “red” Homestyle chips are placed in a continuous cooker, entering at one end of the equipment and being mechanically raked through the lard to the other end, where they emerge to be salted, cooled, dried, and packaged.

The “blue” Original chips are produced in two large steel kettles. When the chips are placed in the kettles, the temperature is lowered, then increased as the chips slowly cook, producing a harder, darker, curlier and crunchier chip.

Where are Good’s Potato Chips distributed? Good’s Potato Chips currently has 16 distribution routes throughout south-central Pennsylvania including Berks [Reading’s county], Lancaster, Lehigh, Montgomery, Chester, Bucks, Lebanon and Schuylkill counties. Independent distributors also serve several Mid-Atlantic and New England states. Good’s products are available at most major grocery stores, as well as independent grocers, markets, convenience stores, sandwich shops and served in many restaurants. If Good’s Potato Chips are not available in your area, we offer many of our most popular items for sale in our on-line store.

Dieffenbach’s. From a Reading Eagle story of 8/4/15, “Mix of old and new at Dieffenbach’s Kettle Chips” by Brad Rhea:

(#5)

It’s been more than a half-century since Mark Dieffenbach began making potato chips on the kitchen stove in his house near Womelsdorf [in western Berks County].

The company he later founded, Dieffenbach’s Kettle Chips, produces about 250,000 pounds of chips a week.

With an expansion planned later this year, production could increase by up to 30 percent.

The business was founded in 1964 by Mark Dieffenbach, grandfather of current President and CEO Nevin Dieffenbach.

“That’s why we’re located out here in the middle of the country,” said Dwight Zimmerman, vice president for business development and Nevin Dieffenbach’s brother-in-law. “(Mark) lived here, and it kept growing and growing. We still have one of the kettles that Mark Dieffenbach made.”

… “I would say 80 percent to 90 percent of the Dieffenbach’s brand is sold in Pennsylvania, specifically in Berks, Lebanon and Lancaster counties,” Zimmerman said.

Bonus musical note: a little song that I used to entertain Elizabeth in her infancy. To the theme from the 4th movement of Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony:

Potato chips, potato chips! / Potato chips, they’re crispy and crunchy and salty!

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