“If you come back and tell me that this isn’t the best potato chip that you’ve ever tasted I’ll be very surprised.” These were the very words of Ken Tracey, CEO of Chippery Inc., a fresh all-natural snack food company, to the CBJ team. So what was the office verdict? We are happy to report that Chippery snack products are absolutely delicious.
In a marketplace filled with, preservative infused snack products, it is a welcome change to see a company that truly grasps the word ‘fresh’. Chippery chips are fresh snack foods, made on the spot with real potatoes from local farmers. The business model is based upon the sale of the innovative, proprietary equipment which makes fresh chips. Based in Kitchener, Ontario, Chippery makes and manufactures chip-making machines (or multi-snack making machines) for its primary licensees including snack-friendly locales such as amusement park, malls, and grocery stores. Chippery now sells chips in about 80 locations across North America.
Inspired by a trip to a chip manufacturing facility and experiencing the difference in truly fresh products, the idea of a machine that would quickly and efficiently create a uniquely fresh chip-snacking product was conceived. The small machine takes only a brief three minutes to create the enjoyable, fresh snacking experience. A slicer cuts potatoes or sweet potatoes into slices, then a paddle submerges them in sunflower seed oil, and finally a conveyer belt brings up the hot and fresh snacks. From there, the snacks are seasoned either manually in a bowl or with an automatic seasoning tumbler. Flavours include popular tastes such as sea salt, sour cream and onion, jalapeño, and cracked black pepper.
This three minute process is the ultimate ‘fresh’ product. The real food movement has recently expanded in North America and Chippery has the distinct advantage of being ahead of the curve from its 15 years in business. So what is it about these chips that people just can’t get enough of? Says Tracey, “There are way less miles travelled; we make the snacks right in front of people.” This results in a genuinely fresh snacking product which is something consumers notice. The combination of quality elements, such as leaving the skin on and the starch in, are what produce a product that, quite simply, tastes incredible. Tracey elaborates, “These chips actually taste like potato; we’re so used to tasting a product that we’ve been told is a potato chip that the taste is noticeable.”
Snack food consumers have an eye for quality and freshness, and consistently notice the difference in Chippery products. “You will often hear people complain that there is a lot of air in the bags in a manufactured product,” says Tracey, “Clearly that doesn’t happen with ours because they are made right in front of you. Potato pieces are big and thick, there are no broken products, and a bag of chips is actually a full bag.”
The machine provides immeasurable benefits for vendors. Says Tracey, “In a machine that fits 81 inches long and 21 inches deep by about 54 inches high, you’ve got a plant sitting right there, so that gives one a tremendous competitive advantage. You can be anywhere—set up and making local product and fresh snacks—in no time.” Beyond the ease of installation, the versatility of the Chippery machine is a big selling point for many. Tracey explains, “In the same machine we can also make tortilla chips, sweet potato chips, chips, and extruded products such as potato sticks, multigrain snacks … that kind of thing.” This potential product diversification is likely why the machine is such a big seller in high-volume venues.
Chippery provides a complete turn-key franchise package when a proper location to start a business is established, such as an amusement park or mall. The other option, explains Tracey, is a commissary set-up, where a vendor can service a particular region. “For example, somewhere like Oakville, a person can operate out of a storefront or warehouse. They can set it up and service multiple stores in their area, say five or 10 kilometres, and they can make the product and sell it to their stores.” The investment provides a complete package for operation. “We provide everything from the potatoes, to the seasoning, to packing, all the small wares that come with it, tongs, gloves, hair netting, etc.” Everything an investor needs is provided—and whenever possible only fresh and local produce is used. “We try to support local producers whenever we can,” notes Tracey, pointing out that the idea is to have a local person, using local product, to create a snack for local consumers.
Biting through the recession
Snack food is one of the rare industries which felt minimal impact from the recession—and fortunately, Chippery follows that pattern. In fact, they have recently experienced quite a successful growth period. Says Tracey, “We’ve just come back from a show in the states and there was a lot of great interest…if anything, its people looking for alternatives. We’re definitely on the increase, which is great, especially for the park end of our business.”
The company intends to continually grow its presence in malls and amusement parks. Plans for expansion are to capture as much of the North American market as possible we can, and then explore across the globe. Says Tracey, “We have a lot of interest from Europe, South America and Asia, so over the next five to 10 years we will definitely explore that.”
“People love to snack and they love to snack fresh,” says Tracey. A simple statement, but ultimately a very true one; there is inevitably always a market for a great-tasting snack product. Chippery, without a doubt, is set for a tasty future.