The Snyder family starts cooking kettle chips in their home kitchen on Centennial Avenue in Hanover, PA.
With a growing reputation, chip operations move to a new brick building at the back of the homestead.
Edward Snyder II and brother-in-law Barb Sterner work nearly around the clock to keep up with demand.
William Snyder takes over operations from his father as the company moves into its third generation.
Snyder works with manufacturers in the development of the aluminum foil bag and automated packaging machines.
Distribution spreads across Pennsylania — from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh.
Jacob Stutzman, a storeowner in Berlin, PA, assists in sourcing chipping potatoes in Cambria and Somerset counties.
September 18, 1945
Stutzman and William Snyder meet with local farmers and business owners to discuss joining together to open a potato chip factory. The Berlin Brothersvalley Industrial Association of Berlin, PA, is formed.
Stock is sold to finance construction of our original 120 x 100 foot building at the East End of town.
Sent to learn the chip making operations, Norman Handwerk of Berlin returns from the Hanover plant with surplus machinery that he and his mechanics refurbish for use in the new factory.
February 9, 1947
Operations begin in Berlin with seven employees.
Snyder operations in Hanover and Berlin part ways. The Sterner family assumes ownership of the Berlin operations.
Upon the death of her husband, Edythe Snyder Sterner becomes president. Edythe and Barb's son, Gary Sterner, becomes general manager marking the fourth generation in the family's business.
Eleven additions are constructed around the original factory with new offices, manufacturing lines, storage and distribution facilities. The added space and success leads to the introduction of new product lines — including corn chips, corn curls and popcorn.
Continuous roll packaging machines begin the trend toward high speeed automation.
Snyder is acquired as a division of Curtice Burns of Rochester, NY. Its association with the Pro-Fac Cooperative (Producers-Facilities) garners the commitments needed to satisfy market demand; farmers get a guaranteed market for their produce.
Curtice Burns Foods becomes a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Pro-Fac Cooperative.
Curtice Burns changes its name to Agrilink Foods, Inc. to underscore the close relationship between farmers and processors.
With the acquisition of the Birds Eye brand, Agrilink Foods doubles its size. In 2003 Agrilink changes its name to Birds Eye Foods, Inc. building on the prestige of the nationally recognized brand.
Pinnacle Foods Group LLC completes the acquisition of Birds Eye Foods. Pinnacle Foods is a private equity portfolio company of the Blackstone Group.
The Snyder of Berlin Story
From its humble beginnings to today, Snyder of Berlin has stood for quality and good taste. Here's the story of the small snack company that went big.
The Snyder close one family business to start fresh.
The company expands
The Berlin community chips in to build the company.
Dedicated employees make the business successful.
A long-time employee looks back on 42 years.
Changes and competition affect the company.
The company expands rapidly over several decades.
From Our Farms to Your Home.
The Snyder Family Starts Cooking Chips At Home
Gary Sterner, third generation of the Snyder family to be in the chip industry, is the son of the late Edythe Snyder Sterner and C.H. "Barb" Sterner. The following account was recorded as he gave highlights of the early years of Snyder's company:
"After the Civil War, my great-grandfather, Edward Snyder I, started to make bricks and established a business around the Hanover area. He was successful in supplying bricks for many area buildings. His son, Edward Snyder II -- my grandfather -- worked with him and the business thrived until the end of
"In the meantime, my grandfather decided to do some traveling from time to time," Sterner continued. "He was married and had children, but on occasion would go to New York City to visit his sister, who was an artist. He also ventured farther north to Albany, Troy and Saratoga Springs, N.Y. It was at Saratoga Springs that he learned about potato chips.
"The story is told that at the Grand Union Hotel in Saratoga Springs, a summer vacation place, a meal was about to be served when a customer requested that the chef fry the potatoes, sliced so thin that they would be crisp when done. These turned out to be potato chips. Grandpa was impressed with this and, upon returning to Hanover, thought this might be the income-replacement opportunity needed since closing the brick manufacturing business. He decided to try frying potatoes to make chips as he had seen being done in New York.
"Edward's wife's name was Eda -- my grandmother. Eda and Edward used a miniature Pennsylvania Dutch slaw cutter called a 'little shave,' which was just the right size to slice potatoes into a black iron kettle of lard over a fire in their home. The slicer was made in Litiz, Pa., by A.M. Mast Manufacturing Company.
"The family was not well off, so when one of the girls needed a new dress or the family needed something, Eda and Edward would bring out the potato slicer, fire up the kettle and make some chips. They would put them in small bags and the girls would go around town selling chips to make some money for a dress or whatever was needed. The venture was so successful that they decided to do something on a larger scale.
"The Snyder homestead was a big Victorian home. They built a wooden addition to the back and set up the kettle where a fire could be built under it. The kettle was filled with lard or oil, and slices of cold potatoes were dropped into hot oil and kept moving so they would get the right degree of browning and crispness. Potatoes would then be removed from the kettle and placed to dry. This was called the hand-kettle operation -- the automation of the 1920s and early '30s. The potato chip operation was later moved into a new brick building at the rear of the property. At this time, the wooden building became a beauty parlor. One of the Snyder girls was a beautician, and opened her shop there.
"The chip business kept growing and the family was growing up. Daughter Edythe Snyder eloped with C.H. 'Barb' Sterner after graduation from high school. They went to Philadelphia, where Barb worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad. Since he was a Sterner and not a Snyder, the potato chip business wasn't in his blood. However it wasn't long until my grandfather contacted Barb and Edythe and asked them to come home because the business was getting to be too much for them. They left Philadelphia and moved back to Hanover to help with the production of potato chips in the 1920s.
"In the meantime, his son, William Snyder, my uncle, had started his own business in the basement of his home, half a block from the Snyder homestead and a block away from the Sterners. He would buy fresh eggs, separate them and use the yolks to make noodles and the whites to make angel-food cake, and would market these products.
"The chip business was thriving. Edward and Barb were working full-time to keep up with demand for chips. Sometimes Barb would get up in the middle of the night, unload potato trucks, peel potatoes, and get them ready for processing. He would then fry them, package them, and oftentimes run the route to deliver them. It made for a long day!
"This wasn't operated as a regular factory. Chips might be processed one day and delivered for the next two or three days. When more chips were needed, there would be another day of processing followed by deliveries.
"Chips were sold by Edward at farmers' markets, county fairs, carnivals, picnics, sportsmen's shows, and at any public place where they were allowed to sell.
"Bags were made of kraft paper, printed in one color with a picture of an old-fashioned girl. Printing on the bags read 'Snyder's Potato Chips, made by Snyder's Bakery, Hanover, Pennsylvania.' The famous slogan, 'Taste the Difference,' was included.
"As the family was growing up, Edythe would do the selling, and when I was 16 and able to drive, the selling job became mine. I always loved the potato chip business. Long hours and hard work was part of the routine, but I always loved the job.
"One day in the late 1930s, William told Edward that he was getting too old to be working so hard. William offered to pay his father's outstanding debts and $50 a week for the rest of his life if he would give him the business. Edward accepted the offer and, as the story goes, put up his feet, smoked cigars and read the newspaper for the rest of his life."
"William Snyder was always full of bright new ideas," recounts Gary Sterner. "A recipe book was published sometime in the early 1940s.
"Aluminum foil bags became a reality in the 1940s. William contacted researchers at Reynolds Metals in Richmond, Va., and they developed an aluminum foil bag.
"He also made the initial contact with Wright Machinery Company in Durham, N.C., to develop a packaging machine. They didn't know exactly what they were doing, but they put their heads together and started experimenting. They came to Hanover and lived with Barb and Edythe and used the factory's machine shop for experimentation. After many tried and lots of mistakes, they finally developed a machine that allowed a continuous flow of chips, which were weighed, to be inserted into bags.
"With the business now his, William applied his talents and abilities to developing the business of chip making from the hand operation into a sizeable modernized business. Barb became plant manager.
"Chips were being delivered to Western Pennsylvania, and it was soon discovered that the best potatoes for chipping are from Somerset and Cambria counties. This led to the relationship between the Snyder family and Jake Stutzman." Since his knowledge of area farmers and crops of potatoes became worthwhile information, the Snyders appointed him to buy potatoes for their factory. Because area farmers frequented Stutzman's store at least once a week, he knew how many potatoes each farmer would have available, and could get commitments from them with little difficulty.
"Potatoes grown in this area were good for chipping because most farmers stored potatoes in the barn where cows were kept. Potatoes never got too cold because the cattle's body heat kept the barn at the right temperature.
"Potatoes sought were of the Mason variety, the favorite kind until the 1950s when other varieties became available through experimentation. The end results were varieties called Kennebec and Russet Rural, which replaced Mason.
Snyder of Berlin is Born Top of Page
In 1944, World War II was foremost in the minds of most people. Food was critical to the war effort and locally farmers were doing their duty. Saturday evening was shopping night in Berlin for groceries and other needed supplies. Jacob Stutzman owned and operated a store on Main Street in the building that presently (1997) houses Harris Bake Shoppe. The store was a gathering place for area farmers who discussed their crops, while women of the household would shop for goods for the coming week. The Snyder family from Hanover would soon travel to the area in search of good potatoes for their potato chip plant.
For a period of time, Jake Stutzman purchased local potatoes for the Snyders and the potatoes were delivered to Hanover. After a while, he approached William Snyder with the idea of building a chip factory in the Berlin area. The Snyder potato chips had been expanding into the Pittsburgh market, and with Somerset County being much closer to Pittsburgh than Hanover, it made sense to locate a plant in the area where potatoes were being grown.
Stutzman discussed this idea with farmers, and after many pros and cons farmers and businessmen of Berlin and surrounding area decided to call a meeting of all interested people at the Berlin Borough Building on September 18, 1945.
From this meeting they formed an organization called the Berlin Brothersvalley Industrial Association of Berlin, Pa. S. B. Berkley was elected temporary chairman and held that position until the association's dissolution in 1961. J. B. Schrock was selected vice president; Richard Croner was elected secretary and also held that office until the dissolution of the association; and Jacob K. Stutzman was elected treasurer. A committee consisting of the four elected officers and three additional members -- W.E. Hay, William Scurfield and Harry E. Landis -- from the membership who had attended the meetings was chosen to act as an executive committee.
Others present at organizational meetings were: Frank Ball, William Gill, John Glessner, Victor B. Glessner, W.J. Miller, J.P. McCabe, D. J. Musser, Robert L. Miller, C. W. Altfather, Rev. Frank Witmer, G. E. Fogle,
The committee's first order of business was to view prospective sites for building a potato chip factory. The committee met the following day at the First National Bank in Berlin, with William Snyder from Hanover.
The following lots in the Berlin area were considered:
Miles Barkley -- lot on High Street
Vernon Lyons -- lot at East End
J. B. Schrock -- lot on South Street
John Glessner -- lot on East End
Henry Shockey -- lot on Cumberland Street
Heffley Heirs -- lot on North Street
G. P. Brubaker -- lot on Main Street
J. K. Stutzman -- lot on North Street
The committee reviewed lots and narrowed the list down to two. They finally agreed to purchase the lot at East End belonging to John Glessner. The agreed-upon price was $600. By-laws were prepared and presented for the association and adopted on November 15, 1945.
Starting From the Ground Up Top of Page
The next major item was a contract for a building. The Snyders wanted a building almost identical to the one in Hanover. The architect was J. M. Myers from Hanover. Plans were drawn and submitted to contractors, with two bids received: O. H. Hostetter in Hanover for $63,000 with no alternate bid given for brick, and George D. Wilkins from Uniontown for $54,400 with an alternate bid of $58,000 for a brick-case building. The contract was awarded on December 15, 1945, to Wilkins for $58,000 for a brick building.
Now money had to be raised to construct the building. It was agreed to have 300 stock certificates printed, and any interested person could participate in building the potato chip factory by buying stock in multiples of $100. The money would pay a 4 percent dividend rate each year. Stock certificates would be printed March 1946.
Money started coming in from people interested in buying stock as soon as it became available. Each person received a receipt for the amount invested, and money was put into a general fund until the stock certificates were issued. All bills were paid from that general fund.
The building of the plant truly became a community effort. It seemed as if everyone from Berlin and surrounding communities became involved either by helping with the actual work, operating equipment, or participating with finances.
Association members and other hired outside help did the preliminary job of preparing the ground for construction. Additions to the original contract were approved for an extra $3,000. In March 1946, a retaining wall, driveway, electricity and water were discussed.
Construction moved along as anticipated until July 1946, when the steel industry went on strike. The association had to decide whether to use fabricated steel or wait until the strike was over to continue with the building. They decided to use fabricated steel at an additional cost of $1,000. In September 1946 the contractor reported that he could get regular steel for the roof for an additional $1,500. They canceled the order on fabricated steel and purchased regular steel at the increased price providing it would be delivered before October 15, 1946. There was enough steel available for the roof to have steel I-beams. To finish the roof, they used oak to make crosspieces. In October 1946, sewer lines were dug and a pipe installed. In December 1946 a sump pump building was erected.
Initial stock certificates were dated January 2, 1947, when the number of shares issued was 714.5 shares. Each share represented $100, for a total of $71,450. Adding to that were 1049.5 shares sold between January 3, 1947 and March 6, 1961. Included were 764.5 shares bought by Barb and Edythe Sterner from individual stockholders. All bills were paid as presented. According to the minutes, the amount paid from September 1945 through December 1947 was $71,146. Of this, $59,569 was paid to Wilkins, the contractor; $600 for the land; $150 to J. M. Myers, the architect; $4,208 to Hajoca Corporation for plumbing; $2,900 to Reading Elevator Co; $1,612 to Miller Electric; and $2,105 to individuals for odd jobs and materials. As of this writing (1997) the original elevator was still in operation.
Leased to Snyder's Potato Chips, the completed building measured 120 feet by 100 feet, totaling 24,000 square feet, with two floors and a basement designed to store potatoes.
The Early Years in Berlin Top of Page
In October 1946 Norman Handwerk of Berlin had been sent to Hanover to learn the complete operation of the chip business. He returned to Berlin with a discarded fryer from the Hanover plant. The dismantled J. D. Ferry frying machines was rebuilt from the floor up by Handwerk and one of J. D. Ferry's mechanics. After completion, it looked and performed as well as a new one.
William Snyder felt Handwerk could put the Berlin plant in operation. Handwerk fired up the fryer and on Monday morning, February 9, 1947, the operation began. Handwerk did the frying and supervised the chip operation, with Herman Munz overseeing the business. Handwerk had seven employees helping him on that first day. Charlie Musser, with assistance from Bill Coleman, oversaw potato storage in the basement. Folks upstairs included sisters Hilda Braeseker Deeter and Emma Braeseker, who lived a few miles from Berlin; and Oletta Ross, Helen Cameron, and Carl Saylor, also from Berlin. Other people soon joined the work force as chip production kept increasing. They were Helen Marker, Dorothy Boyer, Susie Chonko, and Jim Stuck. Among the early office personnel were Marguerite Driggs (Maust), Dorothy Saylor (Knepshield), and Lois Saylor. Other office staffers that came onboard included Joyce Scheller Dively, Nancy Thomas, Ferne Bittner, Pat Bowser, and Marcelene Brick. At first, there was no office equipment, not even a typewriter, and all work was done manually with paper, pen, and pencil.
Handwerk had proved to be a good student while in Hanover, and was responsible for the frying-oil formula. Various formulas have been tested over the years, but Snyder's has always used a blend of peanut and soy oil, and the flavor of Snyder chips remains faithful to its original slogan, "Taste the Difference."
Farmers brought potatoes to Snyder's in trucks. In early years, every farmer who grew them would sell a portion of his crop to the company. There are many farmers bringing potatoes to Berlin and the line of trucks to unload potatoes would extend for quite a distance, all on a first-come, first-served basis. Some vehicles then had about 45 bags or 4,500 pounds, compared with loads of 35,000 to 50,000 pounds today. The number of farmers supplying the company has also decreased.
The first potatoes brought to Snyder's were bagged in 100-pound burlap sacks and placed on boards nailed together on a conveyor. Sacks would be picked off the conveyor by men working in the basement. They would grab sacks by the "ears," cut the strings holding the bag shut, and dump the potatoes onto an elevator. Later, they discovered it would be easier if 90 pounds instead of 100 pounds were put in each sack. Instead of sewing bags shut, they could be closed in the middle to make handling easier and making it necessary to cut at only one place.
Potatoes were elevated to the necessary height -- a dusty job! They were put into rooms for storage until needed, and floors were made with wooden slats for air circulation. The potatoes might be piled as high as eight feet.
After awhile, potatoes were brought in bulk and sacks were eliminated. Trucks dumped their cargo, and loose potatoes went onto an elevator and elevated into slatted crates, some of which could hold a ton. They were stacked several high and each crate was tagged with date of delivery, variety, information relative to chipping quality at delivery, and the name of the grower. This also allowed for better observation of potatoes in storage, so problems could be individually addressed. When potatoes had arrived in sacks, they were first weighed at the farm. When potatoes were brought in bulk, they were weighed at Maust Brothers.
Potatoes were stored in the basement and shoveled into bushel crates from storage bins for their journey upstairs. Crates were put on a hand-pushed "truck." Approximately one ton of potatoes was put on each truck, which was then put on the elevator for the first floor. A bushel of potatoes was dumped for washing, peeling, slicing, and frying. Chips were dumped from the fryer into barrels, carried to a packing room, dumped on tables, and shoveled into bags with small shovels.
Bags were weighed on an ounce scale by one girl; another girl folded the bag down; and a third girl stapled the bag shut with a hand stapler. Bags were then put into boxes for shipment. Foil bags were sold in 5, 10 and 25-cent sizes, and 1- and 3-pound boxes. Each night after the shift was over for the day, the frying machine was thoroughly cleaned, which was crucial to keeping the machine operating at its best and maintaining the quality taste of the product.
Snyder's hauled its first delivery to the Berlin Railroad Station on a pickup truck and expressed for distribution. Howard Johnson's Restaurant on the Pennsylvania Turnpike also bought Snyder's Potato Chips. Harold "Toby" Miller, who had been distributing Snyder's chips from Hanover, could now distribute chips made in Berlin.
Made by Hand Top of Page
Susie Marie Chonko of Berlin started at Snyder's on May 13, 1947, and remained there for 42 years. Here are some of her recollections:
"As of May 13, 1947, there were nine girls bagging potato chips by hand with small shovels. Large and small bags, wax and foil bags (Jane Parker bags and Dugan bags) were weighed and stapled. Potato chips were run out of the fryer in wooden barrels, poured on tables for the girls to pack. Cards were given to each girl to record the number of bags packed. These cards were punched at the end of the shift.
"The girls checked chips at the fryer and picked out any undesirable ones. They rotated every 15 minutes. There were no chairs to sit on and no fans to keep you cool. In a few years, the company added new offices to the side of the plant that had windows. At this time several fans were purchased. The lunch room was small and had two long benches to sit on. We would bring our lunch, and if we wanted to heat something, we would put it on the radiator or the sides of the fryers. There was a shelf and hooks where we hung our coats. There was one small rest room with two stalls.
"As Snyder's started to make barbecue chips, we packed them for shipment in round 3-pound cans," Susie Marie continued. "Boxes used for shipments were taped shut with a hand-held tape dispenser. Packing stands made with used lumber were painted orange. Even then, we were into recycling. Old cartons were loaded on a trailer, shipped out, and were recycled to be used again.
"At the time, the plant supervisor was Herman Munz, and Dorothy Saylor Knepshield and Marguerite Driggs Maust were the secretaries. There were two small offices. There was only one exit door, so screens were put in the windows of the exit door and the office doors.
"A second shift was added in 1948. More modern equipment was installed for increased production and foot-pedal stapling machines were used to close bags.
"We were paid every two weeks in cash, which was inserted in a small pay envelope. The hourly rate was 50 cents an hour. The plant operated on eight-hour shifts and worked a five-day week."
Growing Pains Top of Page
During the following years, the chip factory had been increasing production and expanding its markets. The number of employees was growing and also there was a desperate need for additional space.
After the dissolution, the Sterner family owned the chip factory in Berlin. Their son Gary became part of the operations after college, and his first assignment was to ride with Rich Croner as he went out among farmers to buy potatoes. Croner had been buying potatoes since the death of Jake Stutzman in 1955.
Strong competitors, Snyder's and the Utz Potato Chip Company were from the same area. In the mid-1950s there had been a short crop of potatoes, with more buyers than potatoes. Utz personnel heard about Croner buying potatoes and approached him about buying for them. The priced offered per 100 pounds was slightly higher than what was being offered by Snyder's. There was no contract between Snyder's and Croner, so he sold to the company paying the highest price.
Soon Sterner discovered that his supply of potatoes was gone. He did some investigating and discovered what was happening. He immediately went to Croner and offered a competitive price for all potatoes, then hired Croner as the official potato buyer for Snyder's. After Croner became a director for Agway and his association with Curtice-Burns, his son, Tom, assumed the potato-buying responsibility for Snyder's.
Due to the untimely death of Barb Sterner in 1963, Gary and his mother Edythe were left to manage the plant. Edythe became president and Gary became general manager.
Onward and Upward Top of Page
Under the supervision of Gary Sterner, the original factory had 11 additions. William Baltzer, Sr., was contractor for several additions as the Snyder Corporation tried to use local construction firms. The first began in 1963, when offices were moved to the front and a packaging room was added with additional space on the east and south sides. Potatoes were stored under the building. In 1965, another section of warehouse space was added. The finished area seemed large and was used for the Snyder company Christmas party. At the time, the Lutheran Church in Somerset had just burned, so food was shared with the local firemen.
In 1965, the company purchased 40-foot delivery trailers. Three years later, a storage area was built to house materials for snack-food products. As business grew and snack foods became popular items in almost all households, Snyder added corn chips, corn curls, and popcorn. Many additional items have become staples, as evidenced in any store display.
During the early 1970s, a row of office space was built on the east side of the building facing Route 160. Modernization in all areas took place, employment increased, and markets expanded. Snyder's bought back several route-distribution systems. Sterner, with help from Ferne Bittner, established the Quality Snacks Division. In 1972, the company added another building designated especially for the operation of Quality Snacks. This area is quite busy every day delivering fresh products to stores and businesses across Western Pennsylvania, Ohio, Northeastern Kentucky, Northeastern Maryland, West Virginia, and Virginia, and in Washington, D.C. Also in 1972, more offices were built alongside existing offices. Additional potato storage was built and more warehouse space was made using precast concrete slab construction.
Two years later, a waste-water treatment facility was initiated, which led to creation of a lagoon -- a complete primary waste-removal system that removes much of the solid matter and results in a controlled reduction of Biochemical Oxygen Demand to the Berlin Borough waste-water system.
With a need for finished-goods storage and additional space for parking of trailers being loaded, initial work began in 1975 and additional space was added in 1989. Then, in 1977 and again in 1985, more potato storage areas were added, plus unloading facilities for potatoes as they arrived at the factory. In 1992, additional offices were built at the rear of the present buildings, with space for the storage of paper products and raw materials.
With each expansion came an update on equipment. Until 1963, fryers were recognized as "A" and "AA" -- able to fry 300 to 400 pounds of finished chips an hour. In 1963, the "A" fryer was replaced by a J. D. Ferry Model I, handling 1,000 pounds of chips per hour. In 1968, the old "AA" fryer was replaced with a Heat-and-Control fryer that handled 2,400 pounds an hour.
In 1977 and 1978, a Salvo fryer was installed. Then on January 29, 1983, after 20 years of operation, the J. D. Ferry Model I fryer was replaced with a Salvo II fryer. Two decades later there was still more automation. A kettle chip fryer, a completely automated state-of-the-art fryer, became operational at Snyder of Berlin.
During 1965 through 1966, Snyder installed a Woodman Packing machine. First, 5-cent bags were produced, followed by other sizes. This machine used a roll of continuous paper; it would make the bag, fill it with the proper amount of chips, seal it, and cut it off from the roll of packaging.
Frank and Margaret Atkins, who owned the Ohio Valley Candy Company, were one of the first customers to use this nickel bag. John Hopay from Allegheny County and Dan Pierce of Pierce Food Company from West Virginia also used smaller bags and have remained distributors for Snyder of Berlin.
In the early 1970s, high-speed form-fill machines were installed, doing what other machines would do, only much faster. These foil packages were formed, filled, and cut off at the rate of 74 per minute. In the next several years, all bagging machines were replaced with automated machines. Today all packaging is automated, with the majority of machines being from Hayssen Corporation. The Tortilla line came to Snyder's between 1989 and 1990, installed by Electra Food Machinery Corporation.
The addition of dumpers in 1995 made unloading tractor-trailer loads of potatoes much easier. A trailer is positioned at the unloading dock and the front end is elevated so potatoes slide into their designated areas with little help. The dumper can unload a 45,000-pound trailerload of raw potatoes in less than 40 minutes, carrying them either to a wooden crate or directly to the bin or flume system to be used for processing. If the factory is ready to use the incoming potatoes immediately, potatoes can roll off the trailer onto the dumper, go directly to the flume, be washed and peeled and fried into finished chips in less than a half hour. Each wooden crate holds 2,000 pounds of potatoes in storage.
The plant work force has been unionized since 1951, represented by the United Bakery and Confectionery Workers Union. The Machinists and Aero Space Workers Union represents the Maintenance Workers.
In 1960, the organization of Pro-Fac Cooperative was formed in New York. "Pro" representing products and "Fac" stood for facilities. Producers supplied crops and the factory processed them. The cooperative was the owner, and the individual farmers could join and belong to the cooperative by purchasing common stock in proportion to the amount of crops they would supply. Pro-Fac came to Berlin in 1972 through the acquisition by Curtice-Burns.
Prior to that acquisition, farmers and management of Snyder's discussed the potato crop. Farmers felt they needed a guaranteed market for their potatoes at a competitive price, while Snyder's knew they needed commitments from farmers to supply market demands. This situation created fruitful discussions with Curtice-Burns.
In June 1972, Snyder became a division of Curtice-Burns of Rochester, N.Y., which continued until 1993 when Agway, Inc., announced it was restructuring. Agway owned 14 percent of Curtice Burns stock and controlling interest on its board. As a result, it became apparent that Berlin might lose Snyder's. There was much discussion between owners of Snyder's and other companies.
Dean Foods made an attractive financial offer, but the end result would have been the possible closing of the Berlin operation. Farmers and other interested people in the area didn't want to see their dream from the 1940s end, and Agway received numerous letters, phone calls, and visits. Interested people tried to make it possible for Pro-Fac to purchase the facility. The closing of Snyder's would have a significant financial impact on the area, as jobs would be lost and the economy would be adversely affected. After much deliberation, Pro-Fac made a successful offer and, by entering into a sizable debt, they were able to ensure the immediate future of Snyder's to remain in Berlin. On November 3, 1994, Curtice-Burns Foods became a wholly owned subsidiary of Pro-Fac Cooperative.
Snyder of Berlin Today Top of Page
Presently, the plant sits on approximately 48 acres, with the building covering 180,950 square feet. Present employment at the Berlin plant is about 320, which includes production, sales, engineering, quality assurance, and office staff. Plant employees consist primarily of residents from the town and surrounding areas.
Snyder of Berlin puts approximately $7,500,000 into the local economy, and produces more than 17 million pounds of potato chips annually. The company has increased its distribution to markets across Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, Kentucky, Virginia, Washington D.C., North and South Carolina, New York, Indiana, and New Jersey. There are eight company-owned divisions and 36 independent distributors. Products are sold primarily through distributors on a store-to-door delivery basis, using a fleet of 27 delivery trailers.
Many tasty products are produced at the plant. Potato chips are made in flavors of plain, barbecue, sour cream, salt and vinegar, cheddar, and buffalo wing. There are baked curls, plain and cheese-flavored puff-n-corn, cheese curls, and most recently Kettle Style Potato Chips. In addition, Snyder sells related snacks -- pretzels, dips, salsa, porkskins, other meat snack items, cookies, crackers, and nuts.
Snyder uses about 43 million pounds of potatoes annually, about 12 acres of harvested potatoes per day. Over half of these potatoes come from Somerset and surrounding counties within 25 miles of the plant. The remainder come primarily from Florida, Virginia, and the Carolinas. Approximately 80 percent of the tonnage used is delivered by Pro-Fac Cooperative.
Present storage capacity is about 85,000 cwt. or 8.5 million pounds. With optimum conditions, potatoes may be stored for up to seven months, although three months is the norm.
The company uses two methods of transferring potatoes from the basement to the fryers -- by a flume or an auger system. The flume, one of the largest of its kind, is a large pipe filled with water, released with pressure that moves potatoes to their designated area.
The potato storage area is environmentally controlled. The temperature (55 degrees) and humidity (85 percent) are monitored. As potatoes arrive at the plant, the specific gravity of each is taken. Higher specific gravity means less water and more solid material, which gives more production yield when sliced and fried.
Chips are made from "chipping" potatoes, and today there are many varieties. The common ones are Atlantic and Snowden. About 27 pounds of chips are produced from 100 pounds of potatoes, with the loss attributed to the fact that potatoes are 80 percent water. Therefore, it takes about four pounds of raw potatoes to make one pound of potato chips.
Today the procedure in the basic processing is similar to early years. Potatoes are washed and brought from the basement by flume, and then are peeled. Potatoes are in a tumbling action that forces them against an emery-type roller that peels them.
Snyder of Berlin uses 130,000 gallons of water per day, or 35,000,000 gallons annually. Processing water used from the flume and the fryers is screened for solids, then goes to the Dissolved Air Flotation system (DAF) to remove more of the solids. The water is then transferred to a 1,000,000 gallons lagoon. Here the water is treated with bacteria to reduce the biological Oxygen Demand before it enters the Berlin treatment facility.
Snyder chips are cooked in oils that reach 375 degrees and are packaged in foil-fresh bags to assure an attractive appearance and long shelf life. The method of processing and the products used create a taste that is different. There are no chemical preservatives added to alter the wholesome flavor present in Snyder products.
Recent scientific research has proven that potato chips are nutritious and, when eaten as a food supplement or snack, play an important part in fulfilling the needs of a balanced diet. The nutritional content is listed on all packages.
The dream of the people of Berlin to build and operate a potato chip factory represents a dream come true. The plant built and put into operation in 1947 is now celebrating its golden anniversary. It has grown from a nearly manual operation to one of automation. It also has expanded seven-and-a-half times.
The remarkable story of the growth of Snyder of Berlin should serve as a guide for anyone pursuing a dream. It proves that "it can be done" if people work together and dedicate their efforts in a positive way.
In December of 2009, we became part of Pinnacle Foods Group LLC. As part of the Group's "Brands You Know. Brands You Love.", we've joined such favorites as Vlasic, Van DeKamps, Duncan Hines, Mrs. Paul's, Armour, Swanson, Aunt Jemima, Mrs. Butterworth's, Log Cabin, Open Pit and Lender's.