WRITER l PATTI EDDINGTON
Whether you partake regularly or savor them as a special indulgence, are a purist, or have more exotic tastes, chances are there’s a part of you that loves a good potato chip.
Americans are huge consumers of the salty snack; one recent survey shows that almost 86 percent of us enjoy chips at least occasionally. We’re such fans; the US even celebrates National Potato Chip Day each March 14.
Michigan is certainly no lazy spud when it comes to production of the tasty morsels. Chip factories are spread across the state, some small, specialized, and regional, and others serving a national audience.
Whether you love your chips plain or barbecued, dusted with sour cream and chive or covered in chocolate, these Michigan companies are happy to oblige:
Downey’s Potato Chips, Waterford Township
The handcrafted kettle chip company was founded in 1984 by Rosemary Downey Hogarth and her family. A tight-knit team of 11 handle production today, making small batches of chips and distributing the bags with their distinctive leprechaun logo to almost 340 stores within about an hour of the Downey’s factory.
Now regularly producing nine varieties of chips, including Sneaky Hot, the company also makes a Buffalo Ranch chip offered seasonally and only at the company storefront attached to their factory. They also feature a No Salt variety, born of the idea that the best chip is fresh and unsalted.
The company takes pride in sourcing most of its potatoes from Walther Farms in Three Rivers and completely handcrafting their chips, even hand-sorting them to ensure no overdone chips make it through the bagging process.
Great Lakes Potato Chip Company, Traverse City
This ten-year-old company found success early and often with flavors like Michigan Cherry BBQ. Initially intended only as a seasonal chip to celebrate the marvelous Michigan summers and the Traverse City Cherry Festival, the chips were so popular that they are now offered year-round.
Their special limited edition Purple Potato Chip, made from potatoes that resulted from a joint project with Michigan State University’s Potato Research and Development Department and Michigan-based Iott Seed Farms, was released in November 2019 and quickly sold out.
Founded in 2009 by father and son Ed and Chris Girrbach, the company makes small-batch, kettle-cooked chips using non-GMO potatoes. They are gluten-free and sold throughout Michigan, the other Great Lakes states, and Canada.
Better Made, Detroit
One of numerous potato chip companies that once dotted the Detroit landscape, Better Made is an uber-successful survivor and will celebrate its 90th anniversary in August.
The once-small company, which in 1930 sold a bag of chips for 5 cents, now employs 227 and sells 22 flavors of chips and myriad other snack foods in more than 23,000 stores around the country. Its flourishing online business offers gift packs, glassware, and even clothing.
Among Better Made’s unique offerings are old-fashioned dark Rainbow chips, which have a sweeter taste than a traditional chip. Their milk- and dark chocolate-covered chips are a perennial favorite, and Better Made is in constant development of new products. Coming soon is the Southern Style Sweet Heat BBQ-flavored chip.
Popular throughout the state – and the country – Better Made conducts Pet of the Month, and Mother and Father of the Year contests and posts inspirational #LifeMadeBetter videos from fans on its website.
Uncle Ray’s, Detroit
Yes, there really was an Uncle Ray.
Ray Jenkins started his chip company in 1965 and sold his first products, including chip dips, popcorn, and shrimp cocktail sauce, from the back of his Dodge Dart, eventually purchasing a 15,000-square-foot facility in Dearborn.
Today, Uncle Ray’s employs 175 people and sells cheese puffs/crunch, corn chips, nacho tortilla chips, popcorn, pork rinds, pretzels, and onion rings in 32 states.
The company launches new chip lines regularly. Its Maple Bacon flavor, released in 2016, has a loyal customer base, even inspiring one true fan to create a sundae recipe featuring chocolate ice cream and chopped peanuts topped with Maple Bacon-flavored chips.
Notably, Uncle Ray’s is the official potato chip of Minor League Baseball. Look for their new Cheesy Garlic Bread and Buffalo Wings flavors to launch in 2020.