Honoring National Snack Food Month: Touring Herr’s Potato Chip Factory

I’m right there with you. You open the bag of chips. You peek inside. There’s 13 fucking chips in there. That’s it. Why so little chips? Why such an inflated bag?

I don’t know all of the answers, but I do know something that might infuriate you even more.

Yesterday I toured the Herr’s Snack Factory. If you live outside the Mid-Atlantic, you may not be familiar with the greatest brand of potato chips. You may actually enjoy Lays, you poor soul. (Or you’re on team Utz, another brand soaring from Maine to North Carolina, and then you probably lack a chromosome for identifying superior potato chips.)

Anyway, I learned a few things from the factory tour. On a personal level, my boyfriend and I realized we were the only potato chip lovers that weren’t either parents or 5 year olds.

On potato chip level, I learned:

  1. 4 pounds of potatoes yield 1 pound of potato chips.
  2. 1 inch of a potato yields 17 potato chips.
  3. It takes 6-7 minutes for a whole potato to turn into a chip.
  4. Brown spots on chips are a result of extra starch, which has then caramelized.
  5. Green spots on chips are a result of potatoes growing too close to the sun; the green means a sun burn.

Let’s get back to point #2. Cramming 17 chips from an inch of a potato is an incredible feat. This means when you inhale an entire (small) bag of potato chips you’re not even consuming a whole potato, just a third or fourth of one, depending on the starting size of the potato.

But then as I think about that feat, I realize how little potato is in each bag. Couldn’t they sacrifice another inch of potato for my bag? I want more potato chips!

As this internal dialogue banged across my head—just as I was about to raise hell about the lack of chips in each bag—our tour guide, Martha, pushed open the factory doors and brought us straight-from-the-machines two trays of warm, just salted potato chips.

My rage disappeared. Grease and salt filled my brain. And I was happy again.

You may also like


  • Joe P February 22, 2011  

    G – I love that herr’s factory. I can’t tell you how many times my mom took me there on trips/visits – i love how when you’re within three miles you can start to smell the oil/potatos. Also, did they give you samples of all the other snacks that they make there? I remember that fondly from my previous tours, and hope that they didn’t change that practice!

  • 80 Proof February 28, 2011  

    Sorry to be late to this post. We totally lucked out on getting on the tour, which made it all the more enjoyable. Surprises are the best.

    We didn’t get to try any other kinds of food, although they did give us two free bags of chips. (baked sour cream and cheddar, not half bad, and better than lays).

    I love TV shows about industrial machines and how commonplace items are made. I’ve told Gansie that in another life with other skills, I would want to be an industrial engineer (or whatever the people who design industrial machines are called). The whole process totally fascinates me. That being said, this wasn’t the most complicated setup ever, but it was still cool to see thousands of pretzels pour out onto a conveyer belt perfectly in line…maybe 10 rows deep. Mesmerizing.

    The fresh chips were amazing. They had been finished maybe 10 seconds before we ate them, and fried and salted 20 secs earlier. I could have eaten them all day.

    Overall, great tour that only takes an hour if you are in the area.

Leave a comment