Penn State Professor Creates Team-Colored Chips

Published online: Nov 11, 2019 Articles
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Potato chips are a must-have tailgate food, and a Pennsylvania company has made what might become the must-have Penn State tailgate snack. Tailgater Taters potato chips are blue and white all the way, and yes, you can take that literally.

Made from Pennsylvania-grown blue- and white-colored potatoes, the snack is the brainchild of William J. Lamont, Jr., a retired professor of vegetable crops at Penn State.

Lamont said people in the western world are just getting used to the idea that there are different-colored potatoes besides the white and yellow varieties typically found at the grocery store. But in Peru, where potatoes originated, the colorful varieties have always been a huge part of the diet, said Lamont.

While at Penn State, Lamont worked closely with the potato chip industry, and he said he has always been interested in the different potato varieties' colors and sizes.

While pondering different ideas for colorful potato products, Lamont was asked about purple-colored spuds by people in the restaurant industry in Baltimore when the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens earned a trip to the Super Bowl. That's when he realized there might be a way to tie the colorful potatoes into a sports team-related food product.

He didn’t have to look too far, with legions of Penn State fans sitting right on his doorstep. Nittany Lions fans bleed blue and white. It was a perfect fit.

He began work to devise a chip that would replicate the college’s colors. But, it wasn’t as easy as just growing some blue potatoes, turning them into chips and mixing them with the normal, white-colored crisps.

In fact, they actually don’t use blue potatoes at all, but actually a purple variety that offers a blue appearance when they are cooked. The spuds taste the same as a normal white- or yellow-colored potato chip, but because of their lower density, some purple potatoes don’t process into chips very well or package as well.

The retired professor began doing some research, and a small team he assembled found the perfect purple potato that cooked up nicely into a blue color, very similar to the colors used by the Nittany Lions and their masses of fans. He then partnered with Ben Nason, a former student with entrepreneurial skills, and Thomas Laird, a visual content marketer who designed the graphics for the bag the potato chips are packaged in.

Tailgate Taters then took root.

The chips are processed and bagged at Hartley’s Potato Chip Company in nearby Lewistown and sold in 2-ounce bags.

Lamont said the chips debuted this year and they are starting to catch on. Sold at the Berkey Creamery and online, the small company also has had requests to have its chips at weddings, alumni events and, of course, tailgates. He said they are glad to oblige. The company website even boasts “our university president bought a case for his office.”

Beside Penn State, the blue and white colors can match up with any number of schools. So far, they have branched out to Lebanon Valley College and Penns Valley High School, said Lamont.

But the company is not just letting the chips fall where they may. Lamont said they have the ability to make the chips in almost every color—except for green.

“So schools like Michigan State are out of luck,” said Lamont with a chuckle.

Lamont said he’s hopeful the chips will catch on in other areas of the country, and maybe beyond.