The movie at the beginning of the tour pronounced it Uhtz, so I suppose that’s the official way to say it! As long as you don’t say Frito-Lay or Planter’s, the folks at Utz are probably happy.
My daughter and grand-daughters and I visited the main Utz factory on High Street, in Hanover, Pennsylvania, today. It was impressive, though the term “tour” implies that you are guided through a facility by a person. Not so. The folks at Utz barely have one toe in the water when it comes to promoting their history and manufacturing technique. Seems odd.
They don’t allow photography inside the plant unless someone in authority has okayed it first and I couldn’t find anyone to ask. So I can’t show you the manufacturing there; you’ll have to imagine what it looks like.
If I were Utz, I’d be fine with folks taking photos of their chip-making process. It was modern, efficient and ultra-clean. The sight of all those raw potatoes whizzing through chutes and conveyers and turning into mounds of tasty chips seems worthy of a picture or two, wouldn’t you think?
Before the tour, which is self-guided, one walks up a flight of stairs into what looks like a medium-sized company’s break room. There is a small theater running an endless-loop 15-minute film, which I didn’t watch once they said the word “Utz.” As I mentioned earlier, I wanted the official pronunciation.
Here’s the Utz Mission Statement at the foot of the stairs. Since I hadn’t gone up the stairs yet, I hope this photo isn’t in violation of the Utz no-photo policy. This is a typical over-thought mission statement, which I guarantee you won’t finish reading and that no employee there can recite. A mission statement shouldn’t be over twelve words. So something like “Making the World Happier With the Best Snacks We Can Make” would probably be better and about 60 words shorter:
Also below the stairs is a display showing some old machinery:
Hey; it’s an iPhone photo! Be nice!!!
A few displays inside the break-room show the early history of Utz and gave my daughter and me a clue as to where the firm started in Hanover. More on that in a minute.
The main portion of the “tour” is a walk down a long corridor where the various stations in the chip-making process can be viewed through large windows. You can press a button and a recording explains what’s going on at each point.
This reminded me of the corridor in a brushless car wash.
The Utz staff as seen through the glass windows was friendly; some waved at my grand-daughter and she was delighted. Also, they have cute little wooden stiles where kids can climb up and see through the glass. My older grand-daughter thought they were the best part of the tour.
The pototoes are turned into a variety of chips and packaged before your eyes. Too bad I can’t show you any photos, as it really was impressive. It is a huge operation.
My thoughts drifted back, as I looked at this lackluster effort at a factory tour, to the Tampa Busch Gardens tour setup back in the early 1970s. It was much the same as the Utz tour is now, except they had people walking you through the place and there were gardens and exotic birds outside the facility. Now there are rides, shows, music and other entertainment and the whole place generates revenue.
After the tour, my daughter and I decided to try to find out where Utz started. We knew it was a house on McAlister Street in Hanover. We also knew that, as the company grew, William and Salie Utz, who started in 1921 by selling chips cooked in their kitchen, enlarged their home. After a few years of growth, they built a small factory behind the house.
The house isn’t marked, but Neenie found it by spotting the factory (now closed) in the alley behind the house. Notice the additions on the back of the residence:
Here’s the front of the original Utz factory, which reminds me somehow of the Alamo:
Quite a history and quite an impressive operation. I hope the firm someday decides to showcase it properly!