Utz Quality Foods
|Product type||Snack foods|
|Owner||Michael W. Rice|
|Previous owners||William and Salie Utz (1921)
Francis X. Rice (1968)
Utz Quality Foods, Inc. //, based in Hanover, Pennsylvania, is the largest independent privately held snack brand in the United States. The company was founded in 1921 and distributes a variety of potato chips and other snack foods throughout the United States.
Utz Quality Foods began in 1921 as "Hanover Home Brand Potato Chips” when William and Salie Utz began making potato chips out of their home in Hanover, Pennsylvania, with an initial investment of $300. The hand-operated equipment used at the time produced approximately 50 pounds of potato chips per hour. After Salie cooked the chips, Bill delivered them to local grocery stores and farmers’ markets in the Hanover and Baltimore, Maryland, areas.
Success soon allowed Bill and Salie to move operations to a small cement building in the family’s backyard. In 1938, production was boosted with the purchase of an automatic fryer capable of producing 300 pounds of chips per hour.
Post-war years and expansion
In 1938, Francis Xavier “F.X.” Rice joined the Utz Company after marrying Arlene Utz, William and Salie Utz’s daughter. In 1949, post-war success allowed the company to build a new production facility on 10 acres (40,000 m2) in Hanover. F.X. Rice became president of the company in 1968, after the death of Salie Utz in 1965 and Bill Utz three years later.
The 1970s began with the 50th Anniversary celebration of the company and saw the purchase of two more Hanover-based production facilities. F.X. Rice retired in 1978. The Rices’ son, Michael W. Rice, succeeded F.X. as company president, while Arlene Utz Rice remained as the company’s board chairperson. Utz’s largest production facility and home of its current administrative headquarters was completed in 1983.
In the late 1980s, sales of Utz pretzels began growing by 20 percent annually and, by 1991, pretzel sales comprised almost 10 percent of total revenue. In the summer of 1992, Utz added a third pretzel oven and began baking pretzels around the clock. By the middle of the decade, annual sales of Utz products topped $100 million and its employee base had reached 1,000.
In 1996, the company celebrated its 75th anniversary. By 1999, a new public website also allowed customers to purchase Utz products for at-home delivery. As the 21st century approached, Utz employed 1,300 with annual revenues exceeding $150 million. In 2004, sales reached $235 million annually, spurred in part by market expansion, a targeted advertising campaign in the New York City metropolitan region and a 2001 Consumer Reports taste test ranking Utz as the best tasting potato chip in the nation.
Today, Utz Quality Foods remains family-owned, with products manufactured at four separate Hanover facilities.
In April 2011 Utz Quality Foods acquired Zappe Endeavors and its affiliated entities which manufacture and market Zapp's, Dirty's and California Chips brand potato chips. This acquisition included Zapp's plants in Louisiana, California and Pennsylvania thereby making Utz a national snack food manufacturer overnight. Management of Zappe remained in place after the acquisition.
In October 2011 Utz Quality Foods acquired the Wachusett Potato Chip Company in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, enabling the production of the Utz brand in New England.
In August 2012 Utz Quality Foods acquired The Bachman Company with Utz buying the intellectual property rights, distribution and Ephrata manufacturing facility. The Bachman family will still use its Reading and Hyde Park Facilities under the name Savor Street Foods Inc. to make private label products and other goods for Utz.
Utz currently sponsors the Washington Nationals, Baltimore Orioles, and Pittsburgh Pirates. In addition, Utz is the official vendor of all pre-packaged snacks for the Baltimore Ravens starting in 2014.
Utz manufactures a wide variety of potato chips and pretzels – 1,000,000 pounds (450,000 kg) of potato chips and 900,000 pounds (410,000 kg) of pretzels every week. Utz also produces cheese curls, sunflower chips, tortilla chips (baked, natural, white and yellow corn, multi-grain, and restaurant style), popcorn, pork rinds (plain, BBQ, salt & vinegar, spicy) and party mix, offering over 90 flavors or varieties of snacks in total, (plain, salt and pepper, salt and vinegar, bbq, sour cream & onion, cheddar & sour cream, honey BBQ, "Crab Chips", "Carolina Style Bar-B-Q", red hot, wavy, rippled, salt & malt vinegar, gourmet medleys, "Smokin' Sweet", jalapeño, sweet potato, onion and garlic, "Grandma Utz Handcooked", thin pretzels, special pretzels, hard sourdough pretzels, "Everything Pretzels", butter sticks, "Country Store Pretzel Stix", pretzel rods, and pretzel sticks). Specialty items include chocolate-covered pretzels, seasonal pretzel barrels and sports mixes. Utz also carries dips (sour cream & onion, mild cheddar, and jalapeño cheddar), salsas, and crackers.
Utz regular potato chips are cooked in cottonseed oil, while its Kettle Classic line is cooked in peanut oil. Additionally, Utz produces an “organic” product line, which includes products certified organic by Quality Assurance International, as well as a “natural” product line that includes potato chips cooked in sunflower oil. The company incorporates the “Snacking Smart” icon on a number of its products, indicating a healthier snacking choice to the consumer.
Utz’s current distribution area spans from Maine to Georgia, using 33 distribution centers along the East Coast of the United States. Utz utilizes a fleet of 800 salespeople and company trucks to deliver products directly to the store. Various products manufactured by Utz are also sold through warehouse club stores across the United States.
In popular culture
A loose sketch of the Utz Girl can be found of bags of potato chips in Cartoon Network's Steven Universe.
Utz potato chips are the snack of choice for Detective Meldrick Lewis in Homicide: Life on the Street.
Utz snack foods can also be seen in many episodes of the US sitcom The Office either being consumed by various staff members or on display in the vending machine. They are prominently seen being eaten by Michael Scott in the Season 7 episode, "PDA", in which he becomes covered in cheese balls.