Utz Quality Foods
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|Product type||Snack foods|
|Owner||Michael W. Rice|
|Previous owners||William and Salie Utz (1921)|
Francis X. Rice (1968)
Utz Quality Foods, Inc. //, more commonly known as Utz, is the largest independent, privately held snack food brand in the United States. Based in Hanover, Pennsylvania the company produces a wide variety of potato chips, pretzels, and other snacks with most distribution being limited to the eastern 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. Salie cooked the chips and Bill delivered them to local grocery stores and farmers’ markets in the Hanover and Baltimore, Maryland areas.
Success soon allowed the couple to move operations to a small concrete 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 William and Salie’s daughter Arlene Utz. In 1949, post-war success allowed the company to build a new production facility on 10 acres (40,000 m2) in Hanover. Salie Utz died in 1965 and Bill died in 1968, at which time Rice became president of the company.
The company purchased two more Hanover-based production facilities during the 1970s. Rice retired in 1978, and his son Michael became company president, while Arlene Utz Rice remained as the company’s chairman of the board. 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.
In 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 2011 Utz Quality Foods acquired the Wachusett Potato Chip Company in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, enabling the production of the Utz brand in New England.
In 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 Quality Foods remains family-owned. Michael Rice is the chairman, and his son-in-law Dylan Lissette is chief executive officer. In 2014, the company's 2500 employees made 150 million pounds of snacks in its eleven manufacturing facilities.
Utz currently sponsors the Washington Nationals, Baltimore Orioles, and Pittsburgh Pirates. Utz has sponsored the Philadelphia Eagles for many seasons. In addition, Utz is the official vendor of all pre-packaged snacks for the Baltimore Ravens starting in 2014. Also, Utz sponsors the Connecticut Tigers & Erie SeaWolves, of Minor League Baseball.
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, popcorn, pork rinds, and party mix, offering over 90 flavors or varieties of snacks in total. Specialty items include chocolate-covered pretzels, seasonal pretzel barrels and sports mixes. Utz also carries dips, salsas, and crackers.
In total, Utz makes 395 different types and flavors of snacks.
Utz regular potato chips are cooked in cottonseed oil; its Kettle Classic line in peanut oil; and its Grandma Utz varieties in lard. 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.
Mail order and online store
In the mid-1980s, Utz started a catalog mail order service allowing consumers to order Utz products by phone for home delivery. In 1998, Utz added online ordering at their website utzsnacks.com.
Little Utz Girl mascot and logo
The official mascot of Utz Quality Foods is the Little Utz Girl, or more commonly known as the Utz Girl. She has appeared on Utz snack food packages and/or in the company logo since the 1920's with her appearance changing over the years. Back in the 20's she was a realistic drawing of a young dark-haired girl with a bow, bob hairstyle, and blushing cheeks reaching into a bag of potato chips. Sometime in the 1970's her design was updated into a simpler cartoonish form with the "U" in the Utz wordmark doubling as the potato chip bag she is reaching into. The company continues to use this version of the logo to this day and it can be seen at the top right of this webpage. The logo changes colors according to what flavor of potato chips or variety of snacks it appears on with the Utz Girl's hair being one color and her bow, blush, and shirt being another color as they always match.
Utz Girl and Mr. Boh meme
The Utz Girl has been part of an ongoing internet meme where she can be seen in artwork and images on the internet as the wife, fiance, girlfriend, or female partner of Mr. Boh the mascot of National Bohemian beer. Like Utz snacks National Bohemian, or Natty Boh as it is nicknamed, has historic ties to the city of Baltimore, Maryland. The meme can be traced back to a billboard in Baltimore that first appeared in 2007. The billboard was an advertisement for a local Baltimore jeweler and depicted Mr. Boh on one knee proposing to the Utz Girl with a diamond ring in his hand and the caption, "Where Baltimore gets engaged." The billboard was part of a larger ad campaign which included local television commercials. In May 2014 the billboard was taken down with plans of replacing it with a permanent brick and mortar mural at another location within the city.
In popular culture
The Utz brand has also been prominently featured in the Netflix series Orange is the New Black.
A bag of Utz potato chips was seen in the background of the "Woods" episode of FX's Atlanta, "The Old Man & the Gun" featuring Robert Redford (2018), and "American Animals (2018)."
Packages of Utz potato chips were seen frequently in episodes of The Wire which took place in Baltimore, Maryland.
- DiStefano, Joseph N. (7 January 2011). "Two potato: Chip king Utz buys Dirty and Zapp's". philly.com. The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 23 January 2016.
- Sellers, Patricia (4 March 2015). "The secretive snack company that Warren Buffett loves". Fortune Magazine. Retrieved 23 January 2016.
- Heaney, Caitlin (August 31, 2008). "'Mad Men' eats up Utz Quality Foods". The Evening Sun. "'Mad Men' eats up Utz Quality Foods [archived]".