March 14 is National Potato Chip Day, and Detroiters, who eat twice the national average of potato chips, will likely be celebrating with a bag or two with the hometown favorite, Better Made Potato Chips. We talked with Better Made COO Mike Schena about Detroit’s favorite chips.
What’s the history behind Better Made Potato Chips?
We’re in our 80th year. We were founded by two cousins – Peter Cipriano and Cross Moceri. One had $600 and the other had a truck. They sold what they made right outside the door. Then they started selling them on Belle Isle and then to the movie theaters.
How many pounds of potatoes does Better Made process to make its chips?
We go through 50 million pounds of potatoes each year, or about 1 million pounds a week.
How many pounds of chips do you get out of that?
One hundred pounds of potatoes yields about 25 pounds of chips, but 40% of that is oil, so about 14 pounds of those 100 pounds are chips.
Where do you get your potatoes?
About 75% of our potatoes are grown in Michigan. They’re harvested fresh from August to mid-October and the ones that are put in storage are harvested in September and they’re shipped to us through May. Starting in June, we get fresh potatoes from Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Missouri, and in July from Indiana and Illinois.
Flavored potato chips are hot. What are the most popular flavors?
At any one time, we have 10 flavors for any of our products. The barbecues – regular, sweet and hot – are the most popular. We also make the Rainbow Chip, which is unique. In storage, the naturally occurring starches convert into sugar. People like them; there’s more flavor in darker chips.
Better Made potato chips have a distinctive taste. What makes them taste the way they do?
Fresh oil along with fresh potatoes. We use cottonseed oil. That’s what makes them really fresh.
Why aren’t Better Made potato chips available nationally?
We sell our potato chips in all of Michigan, the northern end of Ohio near Toledo, and on the south end of Chicago. They don’t travel well; they’re fragile and they’re light.