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Hive of Activity: A behind-the-scenes look at Mister Bee potato chips

(AP) — Mister Bee potato chips have been made in Parkersburg, West Virginia for nearly 70 years, but today the process is more efficient than ever.

West Virginia Potato Chip Co. majority owner Mary Anne Ketelsen invested more than $2 million in new equipment that more than tripled production capacity, while bringing costs down 40 percent.

Production was suspended for more than two months while the new equipment — including a potato peeler, slicer, an overhauled fryer and a catwalk — was installed, although Mister Bee built up inventory in advance to cover that gap.

Mister Bee utilizes approximately 45,000 pounds of potatoes a day, the same amount they went through in three days with the previous equipment. The potatoes are purchased from Florida, Michigan, Missouri and Wisconsin, Ketelsen said.

The number of 1- to 2-ounce bags that can be filled in a minute has jumped from 25 to about 90. The capacity for 16-ounce bags went from six to eight to around 30 a minute, while 9-ounce bags jumped from 15 to 50.

Ketelsen said she’s working to expand the company’s customer base “trying to get Mister Bee’s good name back” after a series of challenges over the years, including filing for bankruptcy in 2011 and a fire in 2013. She purchased the company in 2015 and took over day-to-day operations in May 2018.

Read the full report in the San Francisco Chronicle here