The Route 11 Potato Chips Factory first started production in the Shenandoah Valley in 1992.
“With a secret recipe and superior ingredients, our mission is to make an outstanding product in a safe and clean environment.” according to their website. The reason Route 11 Chips are different from their competitors is the method of cooking known as “kettle cooking.” They begin the process by scrubbing the potatoes and putting the potatoes through a gravity test to determine which potato will have the most crunch. The potatoes deemed qualified get sliced and thrown into a giant kettle pot. The oil temperature drops as the chips enter and then rises again, giving each chip the notorious crunch according to Unwrapped, a Food Network Program. The process began in the early 1800’s and is an uncommon cooking method in modern cooking due to the advancement in cooking technique and cooking equipment.
“This is how chips were made 100 years ago before the process was industrialized,” Sarah Cohen, Founder, and CEO of Route 11 Chips said during an in-person interview.
What makes Route 11 Chips so popular is how loyal consumers are to the brand of chips they grew up with according to Cohen. The focus of the company is making a “high quality” chip which stands apart from the chips made with the “cheapest ingredients possible.”
The company remained small, which served as an advantage in how the quality and productivity remained true to the standard the company holds for each of their products.
One of the most popular and well-known of the company’s assortment of chips is the “Mama Zuma’s Revenge” chip, reported to be the spiciest chip available at Route 11. The ingredients which make the chip spicy are jalapeno and habanero peppers. The taste is subtle. There is not much heat or burning sensations when first tried, however, the spiciness of the chip becomes apparent shortly after. Route 11 also offers seasonal flavors like Yukon Gold and Sweet Potato chips only available in the fall.
“Every day, our staff works diligently to maintain the high standards of production that we have established for ourselves over the years” according to the Route 11 Chip official website. The company also prides itself on its cleanliness and use of fresh ingredients which are all-natural and gluten-free.
These local chips have made a name for themselves over the last 27 years. They remain competitive with some of the more well-known brands like UTZ, Lays, and Pringles. Companies well exceeding 100 plus years in the industry.
Route 11 Chips experimented with various flavors throughout the years which would fit the standards of taste and quality but there were some chips which did not make the cut.
“We had a really good garlic and herb, but you had to really like garlic to like it, and it may have been too garlicky for the market,” Cohen said.
The Garlic and Herb chip was produced for a short time and distributed to a small amount of markets as a test run. The Garlic and Herb flavored chip was not re-ordered by the markets and did not sell well on Route 11’s company website. Hence, the chip was discontinued.
The company does not develop new favors often, but when they do, they test the flavor with taste testers and sometimes out in the open retail area where guests of the factory can try out some of the latest flavors. So, if you find yourself out in the Shenandoah Valley, it is worth stopping by Route 11 Chips to try their flavors and possibly get the chance to take a tour of their open-window production facility where the chips are made and packaged.
By Alex Fernandez