Utz has continuously evolved since Bill and Salie Utz first began producing Hanover Home Brand Potato Chips in their summer kitchen. Over the course of the 1930s and 1940s, the company built manufacturing capabilities, and Hanover Home Brand was incorporated as Utz Potato Chip Company.
Demand continued to grow, and Utz kept expanding its facilities during the 1950s and 1960s. During the 1970s, Utz Quality Foods purchased Tasty Baking Company. It also expanded production capacity, product portfolio and corporate office space.
The company saw more expansion of product lines and distribution range during the 1980s and 1990s. For example, Utz expanded sales distribution to serve national customers in 1993. In 1997, the World Distribution Center was built at its High Street facility to better handle trailer shipments to national accounts. Heading into the 21st century, the company has continued to expand its facilities, product portfolio and service range through organic growth and acquisitive investments.
Utz has successfully navigated almost a century in business thanks to an ability to produce high-quality products that meet consumer needs, wants and tastes. Those have been the major factors why the Utz brand has been able to connect with consumers.
With a product portfolio that encompasses everything from potato chips and pretzels to cheese balls and snack mixes, Utz produces more than 175 million pounds of snack foods each year. The company currently operates 11 plants that span the country, as well as more than 60 distribution facilities.
In addition, Utz Quality Foods has a team of more than 1,200 salespeople serving customers from Maine to Georgia. The company currently employs more than 2,500 people.
Utz manufactures more than 1,750,000 lbs. of potato chips and 800,000 lbs. of pretzels each week. The company also produces cheese curls, tortilla chips, popcorn, and party mix, amounting to more than 90 flavors or varieties of snacks.
The company currently uses 60 distribution centers from the Gulf Coast to Maine. In addition to its salespeople and Direct Store Delivery (DSD) team selling and servicing products directly to retail stores, many Utz Quality Foods products are also sold through warehouse club stores and mass retailers across the country.
“Our customers consistently share stories with us about their childhood and the positive memories of our products with their families,” Tullis says.
“We have built a very diverse mix of products,” he adds. “We make many different flavors of snacks, and we pride ourselves on offering the best-quality products in the market. The key with our retail partners is being able to adapt to their ever-changing landscape and working collaboratively with them in order to bring innovation to the market and the category.”
As a privately held organization, Utz has the luxury to think for the long term. The company is constantly evaluating the markets in which it operates and looking for areas where it believes it can find growth opportunities for its business.
The company also constantly reinvests in its infrastructure. This is part of an effort to ensure that it is bringing in new capabilities that allow the company to constantly better serve its consumers.
“We have continued to grow both organically and by acquisition in recent years with the addition of Zapp’s and ‘Dirty’ brand potato chips in 2011, the Bachman/Jax brands in 2012 and Good Health in early 2014,” Tullis says. “Our recent acquisitions have allowed us to increase not only our manufacturing capabilities but also expand our distribution footprint.”
The acquisition of the Zapp’s and “Dirty” potato chip brands allowed Utz to capitalize on the consumer trend for more interesting and unique product styles and flavors. As for the Bachman acquisition, that allowed Utz to add a company to its portfolio that had a legacy dating back to 1884 and had become well known for its pretzels, Jax cheese curls, popcorn, potato chips and tortilla chips.
The 2014 acquisition of The Good Health brand was directly related to consumers becoming more health conscious about the snacks they consume. Utz saw the need to become more relevant in what Tullis calls the “better for you” segment of the category.
“The Good Health brand acquisition has allowed us to have instant credibility in this growing segment of the category,” Tullis says.
Tucked in between the other acquisitions was the late 2011 Utz Quality Foods acquisition of the Wachusett Potato Chip Company based out of Fitchburg, Mass. This enabled the production of the Utz brand in New England, increasing Utz capacity and efficiency in serving the New England market.
There are many other trends that continue to impact Utz Quality Foods and its target markets. For example, snacking continues to grow in this country. Because of the continued growth and the changes taking place in the snacking industry, it is imperative that Utz is constantly reinvesting in all facets of its business.
“We have to continue to invest to improve in every aspect of the game,” Tullis says.
“Today’s consumer sees snacking as an extension of their planned daily meal activity,” he adds. “Consumers are eating more often, but they are doing so in lesser quantities than in the past. Our ability to react to these new consumer needs while also being able to take care of the legacy of the brand helps us make sure that we are ever more relevant to consumers across a broad spectrum of brands and products.”
The Utz Quality Foods team believes that it is important to spend an enormous amount of time working with its retail partners. At the same time, the company aims to work closely with many of the thought leaders that are present in the snack food business.
This activity helps the company make sure it is at the forefront of flavor trends, usage occasions, and the expanding “better for you” segments. In addition, it also helps Utz Quality Foods to discover other key opportunities that can aid the company in its efforts to hit strategic goals now and in the future.
Keeping up with a constantly changing consumer landscape will be of chief concern for Utz Quality Foods as it nears its 100th anniversary in 2021. In addition, among the major challenges that are facing Utz and other snack companies are the myriad of new government regulations that are pending and keeping up with an ever-changing consumer landscape.
“There are key issues on the table that require action by legislators to aid businesses in growing for the future,” Tullis says.
“Issues like GMOs, labeling laws, healthcare, and increased taxes continue to make it hard for businesses today to plan properly around these major issues,” he continues. “Fortunately, our business model has allowed us the flexibility to adapt to our customers’ requests and consumer changes in trends over time. We will continue to strive to do everything better every day.”