If you’re in the Panhandle and open up a bag of Frito-Lay potato chips, chances are good the potatoes came from one of the Western Potatoes locations in Alliance, Kansas or Colorado, according to an article published by the Star–Herald.
Western Potatoes grows chip potatoes and seed potatoes in Alliance, Lincoln, Kan., and Holyoke, Colorado. They grow seed only in Gordon. The employee-owned operation is one of the largest seed growers for Frito-Lay, and has been working with the company since the late 1970s.
“Frito-Lay owns their own patent on all their seed, all their varieties of potatoes,” Western Potatoes’ Chris Toedtli said. “So we grow whatever varieties of potatoes that Frito has a patent on. We then send them out to whatever the allocation is to the growers throughout the United States.”
Chip potatoes are loaded onto about 12-15 tractor-trailers at 42,000 pounds each per day from the Alliance facility for delivery primarily to Frito-Lay production facilities in Denver and Irving, Texas.
“We pretty well supply the Denver plant,” Toedtli said, “and everything from about the middle of July until the first part of April or May, you open up a bag of potato chips in this area, we know that they came from one of our two locations – either Alliance or Holyoke – that they’re our potato chips.”
The chip potatoes are run across the wash line, graded, loaded into trucks and sent down the road. Seed potatoes have to meet Nebraska certifications, so they are inspected before being sent out to Frito-Lay’s growers across the country.
Toedtli said he likes the concept of an employee-owned company. “Every employee owns the company, so it makes a better worker out of the employee,” he said. “They’ve got something they’re working for when they own the company. It gives them more pride, I think.”
Photo: Storage buildings at Western Potatoes in Alliance hold potatoes grown specifically for the Frito-Lay company. Ten buildings 60 feet wide by 160 feet long will be filled with potatoes during harvest. MARK MCCARTHY/Star-Herald