Every time you turn around, it seems there’s another new potato chip on the market. After a while, they all tend to appear the same. But Spudniks, a Canadian-based company, may just be able to change what you think about the “same old” potato chip.
Founded by Michele and Jessy Revivo, the company was created in their search for a unique new product to offer their catering and event clients, a new spin to the traditional potato chip, a brand new potato chip concept was born.
In 2004 the duo began offering their product through “chip theatres” — mobile carts at which the Spudniks chips were tossed and seasoned fresh in front of customers with customized flavor blends, developed with no MSG, and served warm in grab-and-go “Snak Pak” bags.
With the overwhelming response to their new concept, the Revivos opened their first retail “chip theatre” in several AAA malls in Ontario, seasoning and packaging fresh for customers. By the following year, Spudniks were appearing in retail bags (140 gram, 5-oz size) at a number of high-end independent grocers.
Despite the number of potato chips already on the market, Spudniks stands out amongst the competition. Spudniks chips are lighter and less greasy. They use a blend of oils including sunflower that is sourced from the U.S. The retail bags are hand-seasoned and hand-packaged so are not half empty of product.
Michele Revivo recently offered some insights into the upstart company’s unique product.
— Sonia Mullally
Clearly, potato chips are a favorite snack of millions of people all over North America. What makes you stand out among the crowded field of potato chips?
The main reason that makes Spudniks different is that they are hand-seasoned and hand-packaged and served warm and fresh to our customers by means of our “chip theatres” through a cart, retail kiosk or as a retail inline store front.
One of our main businesses is to package our 10-lb. “bulk unseasoned” traditional flat or kettle chips in our Spudniks cases and ship them to various locations across North America to operators that want to season and package fresh themselves. Our foodservice business allows us to hand season our 10-lb. “bulk seasoned” format both in either traditional flat or kettle to restaurants and bars so they can offer Spudniks chips as a “perfect” side option to any meal.
We pride ourselves on being a fresh-seasoned, served-warm potato chip. We don’t want to be just another off-the-shelf product. There are no additives in our product, no preservatives and no MSG in any of our seasonings.
Can you explain the concept of the Chip Theatre?
The words “chip theatres” came about because we felt that we were entertaining our customers and creating a “theatrical” experience for them while we toss our chips within our stainless steel bowls.
Our “chip theatres” come in different formats, either as a mobile cart or countertop unit, as an enclosed kiosk or a fixed inline store (counter top unit) equipped with everything needed to toss and season the chips and serve them fresh in front of the customer.
We have many carts and kiosks throughout North America that our customers use at different locations to cater events. For instance, we have them at trade shows, fairs, festivals and at amusement parks. The customer purchases the on-site equipment and buys the product from us.
Can you describe how they are cooked?
Our chips are cooked in small continuous batches, so we make Spudniks chips as we need. They’re always fresh. Ours aren’t as oily as they are not immersed in oil for as long of a period of time. We have our traditional flat chips and the kettle cooked variety, which are cooked in a batch fryer.
Spudniks are cooked in a blend of oils including sunflower oil. Why sunflower oil?
Clearly, when we started this project we were looking for a healthier oil. Ideally, we would have liked to go 100% sunflower oil, but learned it was cost prohibitive. It’s something we are always watching, and if it was cost effective we would make the switch to all sunflower oil in the future for the obvious health benefits.
Several reasons led us to sunflower oil in the first place–those being the fact that it’s more natural, non-GMO, lighter in appearance and taste as well as maximum frying performance. We also considered the allergen factor. We are certified kosher, and no MSG is in any of our seasoning flavors which is important for us. We also have gluten-free varieties.
What makes your flavoring process unique?
I spent two years pretty much devoted to developing our unique flavors which we now have 15. Because our chips are seasoned fresh through our process, the seasonings were developed to adhere to the potato chip instantly. Much of my time was spent researching the science and chemistry behind binding the seasoning to the chip, not just sprinkling it on like other brands. When our bulk customers buy our seasoned fresh chips, the shelf life is 90 days from when the box is closed. Once the box is opened the shelf life goes to 30 days because there are no preservatives.
What are your most popular flavors?
Overall, our Sea Salt and Salt & Malt Vinegar are the most popular. In Canada, the clear favorite is Kool Ketchup. In the U.S., our customers tend to like the stronger, bolder varieties like Bleu Cheese & Chicken Wings or Southern Smokin’ Spice.
Not only does our brand have a mascot, each of our flavors does as well. Each flavor has a character to go with it. For instance, we don’t just have pickle flavor, we have Delirious Dill Pickle featuring a slightly crazy-looking pickle with personality. We find that children, in particular, find this appealing. We have magnets to adhere to the bowls that the chips are seasoned in and the children can easily recognize the flavor character when they are making their selection.
Where did the Spudniks name come from?
The inspiration is just what you think it was—the Russian-made satellite that was first to be put into Earth's orbit and credited for starting the Space Age. Our tagline was “Freshness That’s Outta This World.” I’m not even sure what came first the catch phrase or the imagery of Sputnik. So we put our own spin on it with Spudniks for potatoes, of course. We even have characters—Spud (a dog) and Nik (a boy) —that serve as our mascots.
Where is your product available?
In addition to our carts and kiosks, we have several retail store locations in Calgary, Ontario and working on Edmonton with plans of expanding with several more stores in the upcoming year. We also have a U.S. counterpart for our products located in Utah, that will focus on growing the U.S. market with locations including Hawaii, Utah and California. We focus on smaller, high-end grocery stores for retail locations.
What’s on the horizon for your company?
We just launched a product here in Canada called Spoutine (Spudniks Kettle Chip Poutine). In Canada, Poutine is very popular and we wanted to create our own spin on this very popular concept. It features our kettle chips with gravy, cheese and other yummy toppings like beef chili, sour cream, chives, and tomatoes. We offer four different types of Spoutine: The Classic, The Veggie, The Mexican and The Works! It’s going over very well so far.
Another product, to be launched shortly are our new SpudBits. Essentially, it’s just what it sounds like. It’s bits of Spudniks chips that are seasoned and packaged fresh and will be sold in bulk. They can be used as a topping/garnish or coating for anyone looking to add a “flavored crunch”, for example, as a batter for fish or chicken.
We are also working on diving more into the snack corn industry focusing on what we do best—offering a fresh-seasoned, served-warm product. We are now offering fresh-seasoned kettle corn, caramel and maple popcorn.
NOTE: For more information on Spudniks products, visit www.spudniks.com.
www.spudniks.com. They also can be found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/spudniks and on Twitter at @Spudniks.
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