It’s been hammered into our malleable brains since childhood, so of course, we all eat nutritious fruits and veggies for a healthy body. At least that’s what most of us like to tell ourselves.
But in moments of weakness, our tastebud rationalizer tells us that fruits and vegetables are a great counterbalance for the not-so-nutritious snacks we crave – like potato chips.
On a summer camping trip we found ourselves in south-central Pennsylvania near the pleasant, small town of Hanover. The area was a cool respite from the southern heat, but little did we know that there was an added bonus attraction: The Utz Potato Chip Company and its free factory tour.
I’ve always been a sucker for factory tours, and not just because of the free samples. I think this curiosity goes back to elementary school when my class toured the local Coca-Cola bottling plant. Since that day, I’ve always been amazed at how engineers can mechanize mass production, particularly for something like chips.
Drop a baking potato on a bare foot and you’ll get a feel for what a tough tuber it is, but slicing makes it considerably more delicate. So imagine the challenge of designing the machinery to peel, wash, slice, fry, season and bag a thin, fragile chip without turning it to crumbs. And in one sentence, this was the educational, entertaining and hunger-inducing tour of the Utz Potato Chip Factory.
On the self-guided tour visitors walk along behind a glass-enclosed observation gallery that looks down on the factory floor. And there’s a perfect view of the entire process from raw spuds out of the semi-truck to boxed bags of salty bliss in the warehouse.
They say the glass is designed for safety, but I think it’s to prevent snack-starved visitors from diving head first into a conveyor belt piled high with hot, fresh chips.
The tour was great fun, but it also helped that we got a bit of extra attention from the tour attendant. One of the staff noticed our State of Georgia plates on our car in the parking lot, and that made us far-traveling dignitaries. He was a jovial fellow and natural raconteur, and his stories of town and company history were a pleasure to hear.
Hanover is about 15 miles east of the Gettysburg Battlefield, so if you need a break from the Civil War, drop by for the Utz Potato Chip Factory tour. I promise it will won’t be as mentally demanding, and there’s a free bag of chips at the end.
James & Terri