Families First - FamiliesFirst FebMar2017

Great Lakes Potato Chips

Susan Gibbons 2017-02-03 08:34:22

Father and son team make award winning potato chips What is the go-to snack that transcends all preferences and tastes, young or old? The plain, salted potato chip has been a staple at parties since they were invented around the early 1800s. Planning a party or family gathering? Serving chips is as simple as opening a bag and pouring them into a large bowl. They are also perfect for filling in empty space on the buffet table. Endlessly munchable, potato chips are one snack that most people find hard to pass up. There are numerous ideas for using potato chips in your party planning. Set up a chip station using a variety of flavors and dips—great for kids’ parties! For a quick flavorful appetizer, top the potato chip with a soft Italian cheese or with cream cheese and a tad of smoked salmon. For something sweeter, top the chip with a slice of banana. Potato chips also make a perfect dessert. Place a sliver of fine chocolate between two chips or dip the chips in tempered chocolate for a perfect combination of salty and sweet with an extra crunch. The potato chip is so popular that it is America’s number one snack food and is now recognized each year on March 14th, National Potato Chip Day. An award-winning potato chip is manufactured right here in Northern Michigan in a modest facility just off M-72 between Traverse City and Empire. Celebrating its seventh year, Great Lakes Potato Chip Co. Uses top quality Michigan potatoes to create its great tasting brand. The company takes a simple approach to potato chips, starting with the potatoes. Every potato is hand inspected and then processed in small batches. The chips are fried in a 150 gallon deep fryer that is mechanically and hand stirred. Sunflower oil ensures the chips are both cholesterol and trans fat free. Years ago chips were not considered a healthy snack, but that is changing. The chips are then hand seasoned with simple seasonings, after which they are bagged by a state of the art processing line and packaged for distribution. The chips are distributed regionally which helps to maintain fresh original flavors. When launched in May of 2010, Great Lakes Potato Chip Co. Offered three flavors, but has since expanded to include a fun assortment available in four different sizes. A sampling of chips includes: Wave Cut, Bold Sea Salt & Vinegar, Barbeque, Sea Salt Pepper & Onion, Buffalo Wing Potato Chips, and Tortilla Chips that can be dipped in their fresh, restaurant-style Salsa. Great Lakes Potato Chip is family owned and operated. Its story begins when Chris Girrbach and his wife moved from Chicago to Traverse City in 2004. He got together with his brother and drew up plans to open a restaurant. The partnership between the brothers did not come to fruition, but Chris’ dad and mom, who were retired at the time, stepped in to help launch and run the restaurant, Pangea’s Pizza Pub. After operating a successful restaurant for a couple of years, Chris and his father Ed began looking to expand. They researched franchising and considered opening another restaurant in the Commons, but determined it was not the right time. The duo checked into distributing frozen pizza, but decided limited space in grocers’ freezers would create distribution difficulties. Before retiring Ed Girrbach worked at Merrill Lynch, helping small business and manufacturers. With this background, he was inspired to look into manufacturing. The question was, manufacture what? Chris asked Ed, “Dad, what do you like?” Ed’s response was “I really like potato chips.” The response gave them the direction to continue their quest. Until recently, Chris and his mom continued to run Pangea’s, while he and Ed established Great Lakes Potato Chip Co. Chris says, “Just like microbreweries, there is a market for local and regional products.” Snack foods are traditionally dominated by only a couple of corporations, but the Girrbaches thought there just may be a niche market for a regional chip manufacturer. “Michigan is the number one grower of chipping potatoes in the nation,” relates Chris, so they are able to manufacture potato chips from local sources. The first step in the pair’s research was to test recipes. “It’s a pretty simple process,” explains Chris. “You only need oil, potatoes, and salt. The difference becomes how long and how hot the potatoes are fried and how thick they are sliced.” In the undertaking of recipe testing, the father-son team slacked off on the peeling for some of the batches. What they discovered was they loved the way leaving the skin on the potato chips tasted. Skin-on potato chips has become a signature of Great Lakes Potato Chips. A plus is that potato skins are also known to contain extra nutrients and fiber. Chris further explains why they chose to use sunflower oil. “It does not have a taste to it, so you get the flavor of what you are cooking—in this case potatoes.” Chris handles the sales, while Ed handles the financial. “We both handle the visionary parts,” shares Chris. “Dad and I work really well together. We complement each other—it’s kind of cool. At the end of the day it is a lot of fun to work with family!” Chris’ favorite chips are the new Wave Cut and the Sea Salt, Pepper & Onion flavored, declaring them “really good!” For customers who live outside the distribution area or those buying larger quantities for an event like a wedding, a reunion, or other large party, Great Lakes Potato Chips can be purchased online. Visit http://greatlakespotatochips.com/. Chris exclaims, “All kids love chips—kids of all ages!” For your next party or event, remember to include America’s favorite, the versatile potato chip. For more information, contact Great Lakes Potato Chip co. At info@greatlakespotatochips.com. Susan Gibbons has been a Northern Michigan freelance writer since 1999. Susan loves potato chips, especially Great Lakes Potato Chips, and often carries some with her for an afternoon snack!

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