Where Did 'Pringles' Come From? The Stories Behind 7 Salty Snacks

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We've told you how your favorite sweets companies got their starts and names, but what about the stories behind your favorite salty snacks? Here's the scoop on some makers of chips, pretzels, and nuts:

1. Pringles

This may shock you, but Pringles' name is every bit as synthetic as the product in their tubes. When Procter & Gamble introduced the chips in 1968, they needed a name, and the company wanted one that started with a "P." According to P&G, a brand manager broke out the Cincinnati phone book and made a list of street names that began with the letter. The company liked the ring of Pringle Drive in suburban Finneytown, OH, and since the word was available as a trademark, the chips found their name.

2. Snyder's of Hanover

In 1909, Hanover (PA) Canning Company president Harry V. Warehime decided to go into the pretzel business, so he started cranking out twisted snacks he dubbed Olde Tyme Pretzels for his new Hanover Pretzel Company. As Warehime's pretzels grew in popularity, another salty treat company started nearby during the 1920s. Grandma Eda and Edward Snyder began making homemade potato chips in their kitchen, and eventually they merged with their son's homemade angel food cake business to start a thriving bakery.

By the 1960s, Warehime's company had changed its name to the Hanover Foods Corporation, and in 1961 Hanover acquired the Snyder family's brand. The acquisition formed a new brand that combined the companies' names into Snyder's of Hanover. The pretzel brand then spun off from the parent Hanover company in 1980. And last week, Snyder's of Hanover merged with snack-food company Lance. (Thanks for the comment, Melissa!) The new company will be called Snyder's-Lance Inc.

3. Lance

Speaking of Lance, the vending machine and convenience store favorite throughout the South got its start in a bad business deal. In 1913, Charlotte food broker Philip L. Lance found himself in the unenviable position of having 500 pounds of raw peanuts that he couldn't unload. While he could have reneged on his deal with the peanuts' farmer, Lance decided to make the best of the situation by roasting the nuts and selling them for a nickel a bag on the Queen City's streets. Charlotte's hungry snackers gobbled them up, so Lance expanded his line to include peanut butter, too.

Lance's son-in-law Salem Van Every joined him in 1915, and the two began selling peanuts, peanut butter, and premade peanut butter and cracker sandwiches. By 1935, the company was raking in a million dollars a year.

4. Utz

The good people of Hanover, PA, must be the world's greatest snackers, because Snyder's of Hanover isn't the only munchie manufacturer that got its start there. In 1921, William and Salie Utz started frying up Hanover Home Brand potato chips in their kitchen. They could make about 50 pounds of chips per hour. They had a pretty clear division of labor: Salie would cook the chips, which William would then pack up to sell to local grocers. As the business grew, William and Salie constructed a small cement building in their backyard, and eventually the couple incorporated their chip venture in 1947.

5. Planters

The venerable nut maker got its start in 1906 when Italian immigrant and former bellhop Omedeo Obici stumbled onto a new way to blanch whole roasted peanuts and easily remove their hulls and skins. Although Obici originally peddled his nuts from a horse-drawn cart in Wilkes-Barre, PA, by 1913 he had opened a mass-processing plant in Suffolk, VA, and was on his way to earning a fortune in nuts.

Love Planters' mascot, Mr. Peanut? Thank schoolboy Antonio Gentile. In 1916 the company held a contest for children to design a corporate mascot, and young Antonio won with a sketch of a peanut-shaped man. A commercial artist later spruced Mr. Peanut up with a few touches of class: his monocle, top hat, and cane.

6. Blue Diamond

The makers of yummy almonds first came together in 1910 as the California Almond Grower's Exchange. After five years of business, though, the cooperative decided that it needed a catchier name that would accentuate the high quality of its nuts. The company decided that consumers thought the diamond was the best American symbol of quality, and since blue diamonds were the rarest, most prized variety of the day, the cooperative adopted a blue diamond as its seal. The original seal just said, "Fancy Almond Brands," but in 1917 the name changed to "Fancy Blue Diamond Brand."

7. Cape Cod Potato Chips

It may sound like an oxymoron, but natural foods store owners Steve and Lynn Bernard began Cape Cod on July 4, 1980 with the dream of making a healthier potato chip. The couple had been wowing friends with kettle chips they cooked at home for years, but they hoped that opening a storefront in Hyannis, MA, that summer would lure in tourist business and turn the snack into a regional favorite.

Things didn't exactly go as planned. The upstart chip company struggled out of the gate, and it looked like the Bernards had blown their savings on a silly dream. By the following winter, they were running seriously low on cash. That's when they got lucky: an out-of-control car plowed through the store's front window.

Believe it or not, being hit by a car proved to be just what the shop needed. Customers began walking in through the wreckage to buy chips. The local news gave the Bernards all sorts of publicity, and an insurance payment gave them the cash infusion they needed to stay afloat until the following summer. By the time the 1981 tourist season began, the Bernards' chips were moving so quickly that they couldn't keep bags on their shelves. The company's rise was so meteoric that Anheuser-Busch bought Cape Cod from the Bernards in 1985. Steve Bernard bought the company back in 1995, but he sold it again in 1999, this time to Lance.

One other thing about Cape Cod's chips: the lighthouse depicted on the bags is real. The illustration is a woodcut of the Nauset Beach Light in Eastham, MA.

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July 27, 2010 - 10:06am
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