Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Utz Potato Chip Factory, Hanover, PA

Hanover, Pennsylvania, is the home of Utz Quality Foods, Incorporated. The company is most famous for its potato chips, though they make plenty of other snack items as well (tortilla chips, popcorn, pretzels, etc.). Their headquarters features an enclosed observation gallery. Visitors can see the potato chip production line in action from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday. We visited on a Monday.

Utz Factory Observation Gallery entrance

The entrance is right next to what looks like the loading dock, but as we discovered inside, it's actually the unloading dock. Those trucks are full of potatoes! But before we saw the production line, we saw quite a bit of the history of the company.

The entrance has some vintage equipment on display.

Old-time equipment

The company was started by William and Salie Utz in 1921. They made potato chips in their kitchen and sold the fresh chips (then called "Hanover Home Brand Potato Chips") to stores in the nearby area, mostly in Baltimore (less than an hour away). The company grew in leaps and bounds through the next decades. They now distribute to most of the East Coast of the United States and have plants in Massachusetts, Louisiana, and California.

Bits of their proud history

History close up

The display area has a fun cut-out for the kids and a window full of the amazing variety of snacks they offer.

The toddler as the Utz girl

A large range of choices

Not sure what to choose, but sure to get something yummy

My daughter signed us into the log book and we proceeded to the observation gallery that runs the length of the factory floor.

Signing in

The very first thing on the tour is a sign asking that no photos be taken, so I will just have to describe what we saw. Each window has a button to start the audio description of the potato chip production process. The first window looks down on the unloading bay, where potatoes come out of a tractor trailer on a conveyor belt. The potatoes are washed and peeled. Then they are sliced and washed again to remove excess starch. The chips are cooked and dried along the conveyors. They are then taken up to the second floor, where the machines parcel out the portions. At the far end of the conveyor belts, the chips are dropped into foil bags. Flavored chips have their flavor added as they are dropped, which was interesting to see. The bags are packed into cardboard boxes by hand. The boxes are put onto pallets that are taken via forklift into a temperature controlled warehouse. From there, the pallets are taken by trucks to various retailers on the East Coast.

We had to walk back the rest of the way but were rewarded with a sample bag of plain potato chips, which we happily munched as we drove away.

I should mention that Utz has an outlet store about two blocks away. The children were ready to move on, so maybe we'll go there next time we are in Hanover.

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