Potato chip machine

Pick your chip — how Ohioans choose their favorite potato chip

At the Breidenbach house in Tiffin, family parties always involve potato chips. That’s why Bernie and Sharon weren’t too surprised when their daughter, Michelle, served chips at her wedding more than a decade ago.

But they weren’t just any chips, they were the locally produced Ballreich’s Potato Chips. “She grew up eating them,” said Bernie, whose parents used to send bags of Ballreich’s to his brother while he was stationed in Germany. “She loves them.” With Ohio serving as home to numerous potato chip manufacturers, it’s not surprising that the snack food has become rooted in many family celebrations. In the years since their daughter got married, the Breidenbachs said they have encountered them at many weddings, graduation parties and other special occasions. Other Ohio manufacturers experience similar brand loyalty with many fans sharing their enthusiasm for their favorite chips on Facebook and other social media sites.

When a brand has a strong local following, it makes sense for families to infuse it into their traditions, said Claire Adams, an executive professor of marketing at Capital University in Columbus. “That’s not a leap at all,” she said. “Local consumers often love the products made in their hometown. They want to share it with friends and family. Serving it at a wedding or other important life event allows them to do that.”

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The production line at Ballreich’s in Tiffin, where the regional favorite is sliced and washed.

That connection to customers means a great deal to Haley Thomas and her family. Her great-grandfather and his brother founded Ballreich’s. “People have grown up with our chips. Ballreich’s are part of who they are,” said Thomas, who serves as the director of sales marketing for the nearly century-old company. “We know memories are created while people enjoy our chips. That’s exciting to us. We’re excited that people are so passionate about our potato chips.”

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The production line at Ballreich’s in Tiffin, where the regional favorite is flavored, packaged and shipped across the state.

Ohio farmers provide the potatoes for your Super Bowl party

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Wayne County Farm Bureau member Dennis Ramseyer grows potatoes for Jones’ Potato Chips in Mansfield. He and his wife, Karen,  also try to educate children who visit their farm about how chips end up on store shelves, noting “farms are the reason they can eat potato chips during the Super Bowl.”

At the Ramseyers’ farm in Wooster, they also have found potato chips to be a useful touchstone to connect with the public. The potato farmers use chips to help teach children the relationship between the farm and the foods they eat. During school visits, children dig a potato out of the ground and then watch it get sliced and fried. Making potato chips for visitors was the obvious choice for the farm, which sells potatoes to the Jones’ Potato Chip Company in Mansfield, said Dennis Ramseyer, whose family are Farm Bureau members in Wayne County. “We’re trying to help children get a better understanding of how food is grown,” he said. “We want to educate people through an agricultural experience.”

Tasting a freshly fried potato chip brings the lesson to life, added Karen Ramseyer. “The children are pretty excited,” she said. “Many times, they think food just comes from the local market. They need to make this connection — that farms are the reason they can eat potato chips during the Super Bowl.”

Ohio has always been known as meat and potatoes country, including potato chips.

It takes a lot of potatoes to meet consumers’ demand for chips during the Super Bowl, said Luke Mapp, executive vice president of operations for Mikesell’s Snack Food Company, which started in Dayton in 1910. The snack food industry estimates that Americans eat 11 million pounds of potato chips on Super Bowl Sunday alone. At Mikesell’s, it takes about 10 million pounds of potatoes to make 2.5 million pounds of potato chips. The company, which sells the bulk of its chips in Ohio and neighboring states, has found the Midwest to be a good fit for its product. “Ohio has always been known as meat and potatoes country. Potato chips fit in with that,” Mapp said. “We’re also fortunate that 60 percent of the U.S. population is within 600 miles of Dayton. That centralized location has helped our potato chips thrive in the Midwest.

The best potato chip in Ohio?

chips and peeled potato on a jute texture

Potato chip fans shared their enthusiasm for their favorite chips on Facebook.

That’s an impossible question to answer, but scores of people tried when we posed the question on our Ohio Farm Bureau Facebook page last summer. Love for regional favorites poured in around the state: Ballreich’s, Conn’s, Mikesell’s, Shearer’s, Corell’s, Gold’n Krisp, Grippo’s, Harvest Pride, Jones’, Mumford’s and Rue’s, to name quite a few. The response proved once and for all that when it comes to the best potato chip in the state it’s hard to beat the hometown favorite. Don’t forget to “like” us on Facebook for more fun facts and need to know info from Ohio Farm Bureau.

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