Friday, January 27, 2006

Sunny, Stunning San Francisco

The Potato Chip Girls (and the Big Boss) flew out to San Francisco for The Fancy Foods Trade Show. What a blast.

The trade show was held in the Moscone Convention Center near Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco. It was filled with thousands of booths of delicious specialty foods. All of the booths were decorated individually and they held tasty sample plates to lure in the buyers and other vendors. It was a food paradise. Meatballs, chocolates, chai teas, shortbreads. Savories and sweets mingled together for one fantastic weekend.

Booth number 513, of course, was the highlight. Our PotatoFinger Potato Chips booth was so popular I was afraid we were making our neighbor booths jealous. I'm going to suggest to the organizers that next year they award a prize for Most Exciting Booth. But until they do, I will self proclaim us the winners.

2006 Most Exciting Booth Award

There were people sampling from all over the globe. Hot deals were being made right there on the showroom floor. The Potato Chips Girls wore darling little black dresses with fishnets and knee boots. Sexy Chic. The Big Boss was very happy. Our booth received over 340 visitors. People just went crazy over our sassy, kosher, all around good time potato chips. We were sad for the trade show to end, but solaced ourselves knowing we left so many people munching happily.


Abigail, Potato Chip Girl

Friday, January 20, 2006

Playing with the Big Boys

Ever since our sassy chips made it into Kroger, our Publix customers have become a little cranky. "When will we have access to your delicious chips?" Well, we like to make our customers happy.

So we started flirting with Publix and they were so impressed with the samples we sent that they invited us down for get-together. This is a Big Deal in our industry.

Our potato chip king and I were excited to fly down to Florida to meet with the buyer for Publix. We arrived to their lobby with big dreams and high hopes. Apparently we weren't the only ones invited down. The lobby was crawling with grim looking business men with charts and computers. We found ourselves a little space to sit down and I began doubting my funky monkey outfit.

Now readers, you know our chip is spectacular and Chipponie, our memorable spokesmodel is, well, memorable. Our little company is unusual, a little unorthodox, and a tiny bit zany. Sitting in that large, glassed in lobby with all those suits and girls with high cheekbones and higher heels I started to panic. But then I looked over to my beloved potato chip king. He was looking at the huge mural on their lobby wall. It showed George (W. Jenkins, founder of Publix in 1930) packing people's groceries and chatting with customers. He looked so happy in his white shirt and apron. No tie, no fancy stuff, just old fashioned service.

So when we were finally called into the inner sactum of Publix to meet the buyer I kept George in mind. And the meeting was a smashing success because our company believes in old fashioned service as well. Publix hasn't made a formal commitment to us yet, but we feel confident our Publix customers are going to be munching happily in the near future.


The Potato Chip Girl

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

A Date With the Farm Boys

Our office anticipated the farm trip all week. "I hear those Ohio farmers are cute," my colleagues teased. The whole flight up I went wild with speculation. I was briefly distracted with all that gorgeous shiny white snow lying in the ridges of the empty fields. "Wow." I thought. "What an adventure." The plane was the tiny kind where they don't bother with jetways. You just walk down the airplane steps the old fashioned way. I was wearing my farm outfit with a long scarf with black ostrich feathers thrown on for a touch of the city.

I drove out to MooMaw Farms and took a deep breath of that Ohio farm air. Big mistake. It was so cold I think I froze one of my lungs. It remained impaired through-out my entire farm visit. And those farmers are full of vigor. I'm not certain but I think I lost four pounds just following them around and climbing up on those massive tractors. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I felt I was the city ambassador coming to bring good tidings to our country potato farmers. Without those boys, we couldn't make our delicious sassy, savory chips.

The farm itself was huge. Two big old farmhouses, and I mean big, sat in front a million acres of potato farmland. Later they told me it was only 600 acres, but to the untrained eye, the fields sprawled out endlessly. And okay, the farmers were cute. The brothers are continuing in the family tradition. This farm belonged to their parents, who still come by and help sort the potatoes at harvest.

The brothers are proud of their operation. They took me on a tour, following the journey their potatoes take from earth to harvest. There are all sorts of huge machinery lined up neatly in their organized barn. They talked tenderly about the equipment, using words like "scooper" and "belt fans". There was some stroking of the big machines. They were sparkling clean, and looked like family pets.

Our potato chip factory is very picky. This can make the farmers cranky. Sometimes they take their truck loads to the factory only to have the factory turn them away. The standards are very high for chipper potatoes. Once the truck gets to the factory, about a twenty minute drive from the farm, the intake person fills a random bucket from the truck. Those potatoes are then judged for size (the tiny ones are given to the local dairy farmers to fatten up their cows), green potatoes (caused by too much sun), and water content.

I asked the farmers if they felt compensated for the their work. They both looked surprised by the question. They were so happy to be farmers, so proud to carry on the tradition. They said it's hard, sometimes, to have to throw a whole truckload back into the field. They talked about irrigation systems on the bigger farms that helped regulate the water and produced a more consistant product. But at the end of the day, they love the farm and feel they are compensated well. They told me that although our factory is very picky, we also pay top dollar for the chippers.

The brothers were so happy. They graciously answered all my pesky questions and let me walk through the living room with my boots on.

Some things I learned:

Their farm dog Lilly doesn't bite.
The potatoes are cleaned twice before going to the factory.
One of the brothers is his church Music Director.
They use an all natural pesticide of ground of up stones to battle the flea beetle.
Their children (six between them) help sort potatoes at harvest time.
April 10th is planting day. (Unless it's raining).
They are very comfortable operating big equipment.
The farmers love potatoes.
The farmers love each other.

The Potato Chip Girl

Thursday, January 05, 2006

The Team Goes on a Field Trip

The whole sales team flew up to Ohio yesterday to tour our potato chip factory. We wanted to join our chipmates at the plant to learn more about the chip-making process. Coming from Atlanta we were unprepared for that gray drizzle of a winter they endure up there. But you can' t beat the beauty of the farmlands and the occasional Amish farmer trotting by behind his shiny black horses.

I tried to take a photo of a horse and buggy but just when I was about to snap the picture, the owner and his wife appeared. They were dressed in all black and I wondered if they have to wear that color in the Summer. That could get uncomfortable. They were unhappy about my camera. I felt embarrassed and grew very hot, which was a nice change in that frigid temperature.

The factory was fascinating. I don't know what it is about watching warm salted chips come off a conveyor belt but we found ourselves mesmorized. And very hungry. Our tour guide let us taste chips out of a freshly packed bag. They were almost hot. It was like eating all the best bits of a savory potato.

Our factory is squeaky clean. I love that. Our chipmates actually stop at a de-lint station to remove any tiny thread or unpleasantry (like a stray hair) from their bodies. We are about to purchase a little vacuum room where our team will walk into a bubble type space that will suction off any unwanted strays. It will not work to remove unwanted boyfriends.

We watched the potatoes being unloaded from the farmer's trucks. They pack them in there loose, no boxes or containers or anything. Just loads and loads of potatoes. They scoop them out by weight and from the time a potato is scooped and dropped into the cleansing water to the cutter to the fryer to the bag eleven minutes had passed. ELEVEN MINUTES from the truck to the bag. Now that's a fresh potato chip.

We all left with bags of fresh chips to happily munch on the way home.

Cheers, Abigail, The Potato Chip Girl