Chip Maker Gives New Life to Imperfect Potatoes

Published online: Jan 23, 2017
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A Pennsylvania potato chip maker recently launched a new product called Uglies that uses imperfect potatoes that normally would be rejected. Dieffenbach’s Potato Chips, Inc. hit on the idea of salvaging imperfect potatoes several years ago and finally brought it to market this year, says Dwight Zimmerman, vice president of business development at Dieffenbach’s.

By using potatoes that would normally be thrown away by either the grower or manufacturer, Dieffenbach’s is reducing waste and creating a new revenue stream for the company, growers and supply chain.

“There are lots of these potatoes available out there that don’t quite meet the spec of today’s chipping companies,” says Zimmerman.

The potatoes might be passed over because they have visible imperfections such as blemishes, or they might be too small or large. Sometimes the potatoes come from surplus that growers can’t sell and would ordinarily have to plow back into the fields or send to a landfill.

“We said, ‘Send them to us at a discount.’ [The grower] makes a little money versus losing money,” says Zimmerman.

But chipping color is probably the biggest reason potatoes get rejected, Zimmerman said, because most consumers prefer a bright, white chip.

Uglies are darker because they are made from potatoes with a high sugar content, which normally are rejected.

“You’ll get a darker chip because the sugars are caramelizing in the kettle, which is a great flavor but is not what the U.S. market expects,” he said.

Using the tagline, “Always ugly, always delicious,” Dieffenbach’s turned a negative into a positive, viable selling point. Dieffenbach’s specializes in kettle-cooked potato chips, which are made from thicker-cut potatoes and cooked one batch at a time under a temperature drop that produces a thicker, crispier, curlier chip.

Dieffenbach’s is also saving the consumer money by offering Uglies at a discount, Zimmerman said. Uglies are sold in six-ounce bags that retail for about $1.50 to $2. The chips are available in original sea salt, mesquite barbecue, and salt and vinegar flavor.

Dieffenbach’s product line, which includes potato and root chips, is available in independent and retail chains such as Redner’s, largely in central Pennsylvania.

“We just launched the product and we’re still in the process of getting them authorized in stores,” says Zimmerman.