Traverse City – Great Lakes Potato Chip Company has come a long way in the last five years. In 2000, Ed Girrbach and his son Chris pulled their Dodge pick-up truck into line behind four semi-tractors to get their first load of Michigan potatoes. That first load held about 1,500 pounds of potatoes – enough for 600 bags of chips.
“It was an exciting time,” said Ed. “We drove that one crate of fresh harvested potatoes 110 miles back to Traverse City and turned them into the first hand-crafted kettle chips for our company.”
Like most small businesses, sales began with Ed and Chris driving to local retailers to share their new product. Response was very positive and soon sales spread throughout the state. Great Lakes Chips were also a hit on the snack trade show circuit, exposing them to buyers big and small around the Great Lakes region.
“In the second year we added our 16 foot box truck and a second refurbished kettle fryer,” said Chris. “We faced rapidly growing demand for all three of the flavors being produced: Original, Barbeque and Sea Salt and Vinegar.”
As demand increased over the next two years, a larger delivery truck and fourth flavor (Sea Salt Pepper & Onion) were added. A major expansion to the production facility increased the number of employees to 13.
Great Lakes Potato Chip Company was honored in 2014 by being selected one of the “Michigan 50 Companies to Watch” by Michigan Celebrates Small Business. This award is presented to companies known for their exceptional entrepreneurial leadership, creation of innovation or use of innovation in creative ways, and their sustainable competitive advantage.
Ed commented on the award, “This was such an honor for us. We started our company with one clear goal: to make a chip worthy of the hardy, fresh spirit of the Great Lakes region and its people. To think that our snack food is now an ambassador for our region is amazing.”
Today, the company offers five permanent flavors of the kettle cooked, skin-on potato chips, two flavors of tortilla chips, two flavors of salsa and four seasonal potato chips. A new production line that will double capacity is in the works and employee count is expected to hit 25 this year. They continue to keep their brand promise of “A great tasting chip in every bag, every time.” All products are produced as simply and naturally as possible, allowing for customers to “Snack Happy” with quality gluten free offerings.
There are a lot of exciting things on the horizon for Great Lakes Potato Chips, with both pretzels and popcorn on the drawing board.
Find Great Lakes Potato Chip Company on line at www.greatlakespotatochips.com and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/GreatLakesChips.
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