The year Babe Ruth made headlines for breaking his third home run record, Bill and Salie Utz were preparing to knock it out of the park in the snack world.
One hundred years ago in a small-town kitchen in Hanover, Pa., Bill and Salie Utz made some simple changes to a household favorite that created a modern snacking empire. They believed potato chips should be made from clean, simple ingredients and that they should be minimally processed to bring out the natural flavor of farm-fresh potatoes.
With a $300 initial investment, they laid the groundwork for today’s Utz Brands, Inc. What started as 50 pounds of potato chips per hour in their home has grown into a publicly traded, nationally loved company with numerous snack food brands under its umbrella.
And among other partnerships, they happen to be the “Official Salty Snack” of Major League Baseball. Bill and Salie Utz definitely hit a home run.
“We’ve had a very successful 100 years, and the last 10 years in particular have been very transformative for the company,” said Shane Chambers, EVP Chief Growth Officer at Utz Brands, Inc. “In those 10 years, we’ve grown to a $1.1 billion-plus annual sales business with 15 manufacturing facilities, 3,300 associates and an enviable portfolio of household favorite snack food brands.”
The Utz potato chips that started it all remains one of the company’s most successful products. But as markets and preferences changed over the years, so did Utz’s portfolio. Utz has evolved with the needs and wants of consumers to offer a range of salty snacks including potato chips, tortilla chips, pretzels, pork rinds, cheese snacks, popcorn, mixes, salsas and dips and plenty more. With its strong foundation of fan-favorites such as Utz® Original and Ripple Potato Chips, Utz® Cheese Balls, and Zapp’s® New Orleans Kettle Style “Voodoo” Potato Chips, Utz has continually grown sales and added brands such as Good Health®, Boulder Canyon® and recently ON THE BORDER® Chips and Dips.
“Utz works hard to balance efforts in its core markets along with new and/or emerging ones. We operate from a plan for each and have a very dedicated and talented team to execute our plans,” Chambers said. Utz leverages its direct store delivery and direct to warehouse distribution capabilities as well as its online, e-commerce capabilities to reach and enter new markets.
Bill Blubaugh, SVP of Marketing, Utz Brands, Inc., also credits their success with a strong portfolio of brands and an accomplished team. “From humble beginnings, we are distinctly proud of our long-standing, family-oriented culture, our people who’ve made so much possible and our portfolio of craft and better-for-you snack foods that excite and delight fans every day,” he said.
Even with its tremendous growth, Utz remains a multi-generational family business. There are third, fourth and fifth generation family members involved in the company today who maintain the strong foundation set by Bill and Salie Utz.
“The Rice and Lissette families, who are third and fourth generation family members and who also have fifth generation members now working at the company, do much to continue to lead and foster the longstanding culture that Bill and Salie Utz created and instilled in the foundation of the company,” Blubaugh said. “Their focus on hard work, making quality products, listening to the wants and needs of the customer and giving back to the community remain as pillars of the Utz culture today and for the future.”
It was that hard work and collaboration of many generations that led Utz to one of its biggest and most recent accomplishments: a listing on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol UTZ on August 31, 2020.
Plenty has changed over the course of 100 years, but many aspects of the business remain the same. The company strives to treat its associates well, make high-quality snacks that appeal to generations of fans and listen to its customers and retail partners. Strong family and business values play out through Utz’ contributions and support to the communities it serves.
For instance, in 2017, the Rice and Lissette families launched The Rice Family Foundation to support the education, health and well-being of families in the greater Hanover, Pa., area. “During 2020, the Rice and Lissette families went further by contributing $20 million in Utz stock to the Foundation, which will allow the Foundation to increase its annual giving by five times over prior years,” Blubaugh said. “In 2020, the foundation provided grants to 35 nonprofit organizations that are involved with mental and physical health issues, drug addition, domestic violence, food banks and more.”
Even during the tumultuous 18 months of the COVID-19 pandemic, Utz relied on its ability to stay lean and nimble to adapt to unforeseen challenges. The company’s ability to quickly change gears and leverage its online platform paid off, earning Utz “the fastest growing salty snack company in e-commerce” as measured by IRI during 20201.
As the snack food giant looks to its next century, Chambers said they will continue drawing from what they’ve learned and accomplished. “We truly believe that we’ve built the foundation of a company that can continue to expand across the U.S. and delight customers from Miami to San Diego to Seattle!”
Blubaugh feels Bill and Salie would be proud of the leadership of Dylan Lissette, Utz’s CEO, and the current generation that is leading the company. “We believe that Bill and Salie would be incredibly proud of the Utz culture that has endured, true to what they initially sought to create, and that our associates have been central to the success of the company.”
1 Source: IRI; Measured % dollar sales; 52 weeks ending Dec. 27, 2020; E-Commerce Channel with businesses larger than $100,000.00 dollar sales.
Did you catch Utz on PFMA’s Shelf Confidence podcast? Hear more about the “new normal” of snacking!