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Retired PSU Professor Creates Blue and White Potato Chips

by and on November 13, 2019 4:30 AM

Potato chips are a must-have tailgate food, and a local company has made what might become the must-have Penn State tailgate snack. Tailgater Taters potato chips are blue and white all the way. And yes, you can take that literally.

Made from Centre County-grown blue and white colored potatoes, the snack is the brain child of William J. Lamont Jr., a retired professor of vegetable crops at Penn State.

“Are they dyed blue?” is a question Lamont routinely has to answer. And he’s proud to say answer “no” and also explains they are not genetically modified either. The chips are made from naturally blue potatoes.

Lamont said people in the western world are just getting used to the idea that there are different colored potatoes besides the white- and yellow-colored variety typically found at the grocery store. But in Peru, where potatoes originated, the colorful varieties have always been a huge part of the diet, said Lamont.

While at Penn State, Lamont worked closely with the potato chip industry, and he said he has always been interested in the different types of potato variety in color and size.

While pondering different ideas for colorful potato products, Lamont was asked about purple-colored spuds by people in the restaurant industry in Baltimore when the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens football team earned a trip to the Super Bowl. This is when he realized there might be a way to tie the colorful potatoes into a sports team-related food product.

He didn’t have to look too far with legions of Penn State fans sitting right on his doorstep. Nittany Lions fans bleed blue and white. It was a perfect fit.

He began work to devise a chip that would replicate the college’s colors. But, it wasn’t as easy as just growing some blue potatoes, turning them into chips and mixing them with the normal, white-colored crisps.

In fact, they actually don’t use blue potatoes at all, but actually a purple variety that offers a blue appearance when they are cooked. The spuds taste the same as a normal white- or yellow-colored potato chip, but because of their lower density, some purple potatoes don’t process into chips very well or package as well.

The retired professor began doing some research and a small team he assembled found the perfect purple potato that cooked up nicely into a blue color, very similar to the colors used by the Nittany Lions and their masses of fans across the country. He then partnered with Ben Nason, a former student with entrepreneurial skills, and Thomas Laird, a visual content marketer who designed the graphics for the bag the potato chips are packaged in.

“Tailgate Taters” then took root.

The chips are processed and bagged at Hartley’s Potato Chip Company in nearby Lewistown and sold in 2-ounce bags.

Lamont said the chips debuted this year and they are starting to catch on. Sold at the Berkey Creamery and online, the small company also has had requests to have their chips at weddings, alumni events and, of course, tailgates. He said they are glad to oblige. The company website even boasts “our university president bought a case for his office.”

Beside Penn State, the blue and white colors can match up with any number of schools, and so far, they have branched out to Lebanon Valley College and Penns Valley High School, said Lamont.

But the company is not just letting the chips fall where they may. He said they have the ability to make the chips in almost every color — except for green.

“So schools like Michigan State are out of luck,” said Lamont with a chuckle.

Lamont said he’s hopeful the chips will catch on in other areas of the country, and maybe beyond.


This story was produced by the staff at the Centre County Gazette. It was re-published with permission. The Centre County Gazette is a weekly publication, available at many locations around Centre County every Thursday morning.

Vincent Corso is writer for Town&Gown and the Centre County Gazette.
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