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America: The land of potato chip varieties

 Potato Chips on map
Though thin and flat may be the national standard of the potato chip in the United States, regional and sometimes hyper-local preferences for different calibers of crunch, thickness, seasonings and endless other elements have created a surprisingly diverse culinary patchwork of chip styles around the country.

That's right — the chips you nosh in the Northeast could be wildly different than those savored in the South.

Midwesterners, for example, prefer a thicker, more substantial chip. Big, hearty chips also sell well in New England and the Rockies, though in the latter area those progressive mountain folk want theirs with artisanal seasonings. Southerners love barbecue flavor, chip industry executives say, but it needs to be sprinkled on thin, melt-in-your-mouth chips.

Southwestern states predictably go for bold and spicy. Local flavors — such as New Orleans Cajun and Mid-Atlantic crab seasoning — find their way onto chips in those places. And people all across the country, it seems, love a curly, shattering kettle chip.

"People like the potato chip they grew up with,"says Jim McCarthy, chief executive officer at the Rosslyn, Va.-based Snack Food Association, a trade group that represents the many denizens of convenience store shelves. "There's a very strong brand recognition and brand loyalty to the chip you grew up with."

Potato chips are America's number one snack, according to the group's 2012 state of the industry report, and we spent $9 billion on them in 2010, 50 percent more than what we spent on the No. 2 snack, tortilla chips. More than half of those sales go to Plano, Texas-based Frito-Lay North America, whose original thin, crispy chip is the top-seller. But hometown styles still claim their territory.

And then there are the niche chips, the hyper-local flavors that connect people to their culinary heritage...
Companies in this Article
Route 11 Potato Chips is US potato chip manufacturer located in Virginia, producing hand cooked kettle chips.
Frito-Lay North America (FLNA) includes Pepsico's snack operations in the United States and Canada where the company dominates the market with a range of savory snacks brands including Lay's, Ruffles, Doritos, Tostitos, Fritos, Cheetos and Sunchips
The Snack Food Association (SFA) is an international trade association of the snack food industry representing snack manufacturers and suppliers. SFA represents over 400 companies worldwide.
Tim's Cascade Snacks, a subsidiary of Birds Eye Foods, is a manufacturer of potato chips and popcorn. Their brands include Tim's Cascade Style Potato Chips and Erin's Gourmet Popcorn. Birds Eye Foods also owns snack brand Snyder of Berlin
Inventure Foods (formerly known as The Inventure Group) is a US manufacturer producing a range of savory snack foods.
Golden Enterprises, Inc. is a small publicly traded snack food company in the Southern United States.
Zapp's potato chips was a manufacturer of potato chips in Louisiana (United States), acquired in 2011 by Utz Quality Foods
Utz Snacks is the largest independent privately held snack brand in the US. Weekly, Utz produces over 1 million pound of potato chips and nine hunderd thousand pounds of pretzels in 4 manufacturing facilities.