Uglies makes rejected potatoes stylishly sustainable

Rick Lingle in Food Packaging on January 31, 2017

Snacks' amusing packaging design enhances an on-trend twist: Off-spec potatoes are given new life in a value-added way that reduces food waste and consumer costs.


It’s said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and so it is for Uglies potato chips from Dieffenbach's Potato Chips Inc., Womelsdorf, PA. The brand’s proposition is simple: Turning off-spec potatoes that would otherwise be discarded into edible snacks that boldly proclaim their flaws to help reduce food waste and save everyone money.

Uglies were introduced in mid-January at the Pennsylvania Farm Show, an eight-day event that drew more than a half-million visitors, to leverage the unique tie-in to farmers.

“This new brand is using potatoes that farmers would likely be throwing away due to minor imperfections,” says Nevin Dieffenbach, owner and CEO. "Because of this, we're able to pass on the savings to our customers, and everyone feels like they've done some good.”

Uglies debuted in three flavors, sea salt, barbecue and salt & vinegar.

“No one else is making kettle chips with these potatoes,” points out Mike Marlowe, chief operating officer. Marlowe responds to our questions about the unique product with the fascinating packaging design.


How did the Uglies idea originate?

Marlowe: Our founder had always used potatoes like these to make a product he called "factory seconds." He thought it was wasteful to be throwing these potatoes away simply because they had a few cosmetic imperfections. He would cook these potatoes using the same kettle chip recipe and package them in a plain bag and labeled them as “Factory Seconds” to sell at a discount. Customers loved the product and before long he was taking in imperfect potatoes from other local chip manufactures, so the idea for Uglies in some ways was born 50+ years ago.


What sparked the resurrection of the concept?

Marlowe: Yes, our vp of sales Dwight Zimmerman had been following a new trend where grocery stores were starting to sell produce with minor imperfections at a discount. He had a light bulb moment and thought, “Wow! We have been doing this for years but have not being telling our customers the story.” We decided to create a new brand that included the story behind the product on the bag.


What were the packaging design goals?

Marlowe: We wanted the package to stand out on an otherwise crowded shelf of potato chips; additionally, we wanted to be able to tell the story of these rejected potatoes.


One of the taglines is that it reduces food waste. What can you say about that?

Marlowe: In some cases this product would be plowed under or discarded by the farmer. Depending on where it was rejected in the supply chain, it may end up in a landfill. We expect to save more than one million pounds of potatoes in the first year and go from there.


Another of the taglines is that it saves consumers money: What is the SRP (suggested retail price) and how does that compare to your regular chips?

Marlowe: We don’t set the retail price. However, mostly we are selling this product for anywhere between 10% to 50% less than comparable products.


Who’s the target consumer and what’s been the reception?

Marlowe: We’ve seen a broad appeal for this product. Some are buying for the savings, while others are drawn to it for the environmentally-conscious side. In the end, they buy it because it is a “truly enjoyable snack."

The products’ reception has been great. Who doesn’t like spending less on a great-tasting kettle chips, and doing some good?


Zero food-waste strategy

It turns out that the Uglies' manufacturing plant is all about sustainability.

“In total, the plant that manufactures Uglies can process nearly 55 million pounds of potatoes per year, with a zero food waste strategy,” says Marlowe. “All of the potato peels, crumbs and other food waste is collected and goes to local farmers. The oil we use to fry our chips is filtered to remove the crumbs and other impurities, allowing us to have zero oil waste as well. Additionally, we recycle all of the water used to clean the potatoes, reuse it and then capture it outside our plant, to be used by local farmers, by spreading it back on their fields.”

There’s also more to Dieffenbach's portfolio than Uglies. “We also have our legacy brand, Dieffenbach's, and another brand we started a little more than three years ago, One Potato Snacks,” Marlowe says. “We also produce more than 100 private label brands labels.”



Want to push the envelope for your packaging this year?  Open your mind to new ideas at WestPack, Feb. 7-9, 2017, in Anaheim, CA


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Hey, Thanks so much for this post! I think it is great that there is a brand dedicated to eliminating food waste! Sometimes foods are rejected simply because they are not pretty. This is a great step towards more sustainable products and foods! Best, Dennis
thanks for making chips that do not have to be perfect. I have all my life liked a chip that is darker.