Dwight Zimmerman, VP of business development at Dieffenbach’s, has been juggling different interviews with different local media outlets since Uglies’ launched in Central Pennsylvania a few weeks ago.
“The response has been incredible, lots of local media have picked up on it, lots of local papers—so we’re excited! We didn’t envision it would get this much excitement,” he told FoodNavigator-USA. Uglies’ parent company Dieffenbach’s is also the maker of One Potato Two Potato, a national brand positioned as ‘better-for-you’ potato chips.
What Uglies is offering that the other products in Dieffenbach’s portfolio doesn’t is an environmental message and story. “The message resounds with people today, no one wants to waste, especially good food, and I think that resonates with today’s generation,” Zimmerman said.
So what was so bad about the potatoes?
According to Zimmerman, Uglies’ concept goes back years ago to Mark Dieffenbach, founder of the company, who “never liked to waste anything.” Some of the potatoes stored at the facility after harvest would go ‘bad,’ for industry standards, at least—the starch may turn into sugar overtime, which creates a darker chip—even though they are perfectly edible.
Decades ago, the company decided to turn these traditionally rejected potatoes into chips anyway and sold them in a plain-label, discounted bag of chips in the area, a predecessor of today’s Uglies. “It’s always been a well-known item in the area here, people buy them because they're good, but we always pushed our premium product,” Zimmerman said.
“One day we realized, you know what, people love the product, and there are so many of these potatoes out there,” he added. So in May 2016, the company decided to create a story and market these plain-label bags of chips into something new.
The Uglies sold today, in its sleek packaging available in Original Sea Salt, Mesquite BBQ, and Salt & Vinegar, was premiered to much fanfare at the Private Label Manufacturer’s Association Show in Chicago last October.
Sourcing and processing the potatoes
USDA estimates somewhere between 30% to 40% of the food supply is wasted, and NRDC research estimates that 26% of that is due to cosmetic reasons, a message that Uglies puts on its package.
Potatoes used for Uglies are purchased from many walks of life—they may have been put in a reject bin immediately after harvest by farmers who find no use of shipping them, they could also have been a surplus from a farmer’s quota. Further up the supply chain, more potatoes can be rejected by chip companies or from potato brokers.
Because Dieffenbach’s facility processes many root vegetable chips, the company is well-equipped to deal with produce of irregular sizes. They have optic sorters that help them trim out different sizes, something Zimmerman said most other chip manufacturers don’t want to bother with.
Still in its infancy and sold only in 130 stores in Pennsylvania, Zimmerman estimates that the brand has ‘saved’ two loads, or around 100,000 lbs, of potatoes that would have been traditionally rejected. And the savings are passed along to consumers—they cost $1.50 to $2.00 a bag compared to $2.50 or $3.50 for equally premium potato chips.
Plans for 2017, wider distribution, saving more potatoes
Zimmerman said that the company hopes Uglies can follow the footsteps or its sister brand One Potato Two Potato in becoming a national brand. “The next stage is to expand it to national and larger, regional retailers. The goal is that by the end of 2017 we have it in few larger chains,” Zimmerman said.
And as studies show that a 15% reduction of food waste could feed 25 million Americans, Zimmerman said the company hopes to extend its arms to more rejected potatoes. “That would be our goal, if we could go out there and say ‘Hey farmers, if you have a load of good potatoes with minor imperfections, we’ll take them.’”
What are the emerging trends in snacks?
From sprouted mung beans to Japanese-inspired onigiri, the snacks market is a hotbed of innovation. But what’s next? Hear from Peeled Snacks, Dang Foods, Field Trip Jerky, Protes and board advisor and guru Brad Barnhorn at our Snacking Innovation Summit on Feb 15. CLICK HERE TO REGISTER.