Best Chip - 2009
Brothers Jay and Don Poore, of Arizona-based snack brand Poore Brothers Potato Chips, are the main characters in one of America's great corporate fairy tales. Once upon a time, the pair worked as engineers for snack food companies, installing and repairing machines in their plants. There they were introduced to the wonderful world of potato chips — not just the crispy crunch of the popular snack, but the process by which they're made. It was kind of like Willy Wonka's amazing chocolate factory, only with salty snacks instead of sweet. Oh, and there was no room for pretzel trees and toadstools made of onion straws. But we digress.
Jay and Don, inspired by what they saw, created a thick, kettle-cooked chip and marketed it as Bob's Texas Style Potato Chips. The chips were a hit. The bros sold that company, moved to the desert, and founded Poore Brothers.
In those days, the Poore brothers were a little, well, poorer than they are now. What's now a major snack corporation making unusual goodies such as Burger King Ketchup & Fries and Boulder Canyon Natural Rice & Adzuki Bean chips began with Jay and Don, a single kettle and one delivery truck. They handed out free samples and sold the chips to grocery stores and delis before Phoenicians became hooked. Jay and Don soon became the kings of a snack empire. They've never forgotten Phoenix, though. Poore Brothers sponsored the Arizona Diamondbacks' arrival in the mid-'90s and produced some Diamondbacks commemorative chip bags. And though they've since turned over the reins and reorganized under the Inventure Group name, Don occasionally consults for the company and Jay remains at the Goodyear plant.
A single kettle seems laughable now. One hundred thousand pounds of taters per day, sourced from Idaho and Maricopa County, are cooked in massive troughs and stirred by machine paddles. The brand itself has expanded to include "intensely different" flavors that appeal to Arizona tastes, such as Three Cheese Jalapeño, Sweet Maui Onion, and Mole. Of course, we still love the original. Oregon can keep their Kettle brand, and Snyder's of Hanover is just a visitor in this town. Phoenix's "home team" of snacks will always be Poore Brothers.