Friday, July 13, 2007

Ketchup Flavored Potato Chips Diaspora

I spent my entire youth in the shadow of the Canadian border. Both the Anglo-Canadian and French Canadian culture are a part of my identity. I've hitchhiked across the entire country and I was even anointed as an honorary Canadian during one beer-filled weekend in Ottawa. I understand the Canadian passion for doughnuts, but I don't recall encountering the ketchup flavored potato chips phenomenon:

Ed Krysiak, one of the owners of Wachusett Potato Chips, has been making potato chips for more than half a century. Krysiak told me over the phone that Wachusett has been making ketchup flavored potato chips on and off for about fifteen years. While not as popular as some of it others brands, Krysiak told me over the phone the ketchup brand does well in upstate New York “close to the Canadian border.” Ah, yes those Canadians. Indeed, many Canadians who live near the U.S. border find it cheaper to buy their gasoline and groceries in New York rather than in Ontario. And it certainly doesn’t hurt U.S. retailers if they supply a few bags of ketchup flavored potato chips for their Canadian customers.

You might say that the presence of such crisps is a good indicator of Canadian connectivity. As you might have guessed, there is a Pittsburgh link:

Of course, when one thinks about ketchup most people will immediately think about Heinz. Herr Foods, based in Nottingham, Pennsylvania just southwest of Pittsburgh, at the behest of its CEO and Chairman JM Herr, launched a ketchup flavored potato chip in 1996 with moderate success. However, when one of Herr Food’s seasoning suppliers approached them with the idea of putting in ketchup flavor from Pittsburgh based H.J. Heinz Company, creativity poured out like a Heinz ketchup bottle and the product was re-launched as Herr’s Heinz Ketchup Potato Chips in 1999. It has been selling well in parts of the Northeastern United States (particularly in Philadelphia and in New Jersey) and, surprise, surprise, in Canada. In fact, sales to Canada outpace U.S. sales as Herr’s Heinz Ketchup Potato Chips can be readily found in Sam’s Clubs and Costco’s stores. Melanie Coldiron, Promotional Events Coordinator for Herr Foods, attributes the success of Herr’s Heinz Ketchup Potato Chips to the esteem in which both companies are held in the marketplace. “As both companies have a great reputation for high quality products, Heinz and Herr Foods Inc. coming together in this partnership has led to the success of Herr’s Heinz Ketchup Potato Chips,” said Coldiron in an e-mail.

If you happen to see a bag, buy one and celebrate your inner-Canadian, not to mention your own Pittsburgh heritage.

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