Imagine enjoying a chip fried right before your eyes and served up fresh. A school trip to a large chip factory 15 years ago inspired a small group of Canadian entrepreneurs to make that image a reality. No need to visit a potato chip factory: “Chippery” brings that factory right to the customer.
The folks at Chippery, based in Ontario, designed their innovative fresh chip cooker to give new meaning to the words “snacking fresh.” No question, potato chips are a favorite snack. There are plenty of choices at the store that claim to be fresh or all natural. So what could a small company do to make a big impact on a crowded marketplace? They figured out how to market a welcome change to the traditional, factory-produced potato chip by making and serving it fresh in minutes.
Factory chips can take weeks or even months to get from the factory to the store shelves — and its requires large factories and warehouses to produce and store millions of bags that are shipped all around the country. Not only are Chippery’s products served fresh, they pride themselves on the fact that they don’t leave a negative lasting impact on the environment in the process.
The small, self-contained machine takes only three minutes to slice and cook a fresh batch of potato chips. A slicer cuts the raw, unpeeled potato, and then a paddle submerges the slices in sunflower oil. Finally, a conveyer belt transports the hot, fresh chips to the finish. From there, the chips are tossed in seasoning either manually in a bowl or with an automatic tumbler system.
Flavors include popular tastes such as: sea salt, ketchup, cracked black pepper, sour cream and onion, cinnamon and brown sugar, BBQ, jalapeño, white cheddar and dill pickle. The product is generally sold in a 2 oz. bag for about $3-$4.
The cooker measures 81 inches long and 21 inches deep by about 54 inches high. It’s a miniature potato chip factory contained in one compact space. This is what makes the Chippery system so appealing to vendors. The units are marketed and sold to operators as a turn-key business including: chip cookers, raw materials, co-branded packaging, training, market support personnel and marketing/merchandising programs. Licensees can set up just about anywhere, make a fresh snack using local products in no time flat. Chippery sources both their potatoes and sunflower oil from Canadian farmers and suppliers.
As the Chippery website notes, “Why trust a big multi-national chip conglomerate to tell you when the chips are ‘best before’ when you can watch them get made and judge for yourself?”
Ken Tracey, general manager of Chippery, Inc., recently offered some insights into his company’s innovative process and popular products.
— Sonia Mullally
Your business venture began as a concept more than 15 years ago. When did the first fresh chip theatre begin operation in the public?
It all began in 1996 in a shopping mall. The idea was to be close to a destination area at the movie theater entrance.
The Chippery products are cooked in sunflower oil. Why sunflower oil?
After many testing periods of our products in different oils, we picked sunflower oil because it brings out the best taste in our product. There is another benefit in that there is a reduced oil smell in the air from the cooking process with sunflower oil. Another important attribute for using sunflower oil is that we can cook at a slightly lower temperature with great results — and, importantly, we have noticed a lower oil absorption into our product.
In a recent feature story in a Canadian business journal, you are quoted as saying, “These chips actually taste like potato...” How do you preserve that natural potato flavor?
We put a potato in the chute, and our machine slices it and cooks it in our sunflower oil for the best results. We are not removing the starch from the potato. All the goodness of the potato is there to be enjoyed by the customer. The fact that we make our product fresh and serve it right away makes a big difference in the taste. We are not storing the bags, we are not flushing the bags, and we are not shipping the bags hundreds of miles to the customer. All these things make us so different from traditional chips.
How important is the non-GMO factor in your production?
It is very important along with the freshness. We want our customers to have the cleanest, freshest product available from start to finish.
Clearly, potato chips are a favorite snack of millions of people all over North America. What about traditional fried and packaged potato chips produced in a factory made you want to seek something “different?”
We wanted to bring a more “natural” and “local” feel to the product. We knew from tasting products made fresh that we could create a point of difference and provide the customer with not only a better tasting product, but a better experience. We know consumers are shifting more to buying local and buying fresh.
Why is fresh so important — and what value does it have to the consumer?
Fresh always tastes better in any category, so why not chips? Once you try our product, it is hard to go back to mass-produced products. Quality, taste and the experience are a huge benefit, and the consumer receives a product made fresh coming from a local shop with potatoes from a local farm — and all with less miles travelled to reach their cart.
What would be the number one reason why you think consumers choose your product?
It is hard to say only one reason, but our quality of the product must stand out. When a consumer gets a bag of our chips, they are still nice and large as they have only gone a few feet from the cooker to the consumer’s hands.
Where are your chip cookers in operation?
We have lots of cookers in both Canada and the U.S., mostly in entertainment parks and some grocery retailers. We have now started to move into hotels where chefs can do artisan products in our cookers.
What’s on the horizon for your company?
We are currently working on a variety of new products, including desert chips. We are also pushing our business in the direction of co-branding with current franchise shops. We believe our product makes a great partner with sandwich and deli operators — especially those that are all about fresh.
For more information about Chippery and its products, go to www.chippery.com
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