Better Made Snack Food Company
Detroit based Better Made Snack Foods, founded in 1930 as one of several Detroit based potato chip and snack food companies is now the last of it’s kind standing in Detroit. Please take a moment to read the article below.
Click here or the picture below to read the entire article Snack World Magazine, October 2008
Danielle Page, for Meijer Published 2:17 p.m. ET Aug. 29, 2018 | Updated 10:41 a.m. ET Aug. 31, 2018
What sets this chip company apart from the rest
The average American eats around four pounds of potato chips per year; Detroiters consume an average of seven.
It’s a statistic that the Cipriano family has been a part of shaping since founding Better Made Snack Foods, now a Detroit staple, back in 1930.
“At the time, the potato chip was a new snack food that was taking the country over,” said Salvatore Cipriano, CEO of Better Made Snack Foods, whose father started the company. “Detroit was industrial with a lot of factories at that time, so it was a perfect snack to take with you.”
Once declared the potato chip capital of the world, Detroit was home to 22 potato chip companies at one point. Better Made Snack Foods is the only remaining potato chip maker in Detroit from that era — an impressive feat given that up until several years ago, the majority of retailers that carried the brand were Michigan-based.
“We have a lot of loyal, dedicated customers who have grown up with Better Made,” said Cipriano. “People that move out of Michigan come here to the store when they come back and buy cases to take home with them.”
A handful of diehard customers have even taken their dedication to a more permanent level. “We’ve seen a dozen different people have tattoos on their arm with the Better Made crest – we have pictures that people have sent us,” said Cipriano.
What it means to be “better made”
Michigan-grown potatoes are key to Better Made Snack Foods’ recipe for success. (Photo: Nednapa, Getty Images/iStockphoto)
What sets Better Made potato chips apart from the rest? Cipriano credits the company’s proximity to what he believes are the best tasting potatoes in the country. “[Michigan] potatoes have a [better] consistency, they’re a heartier potato,” he explained.
Consistency is also key to the Better Made potato chip recipe. “The product has never changed. We still use Michigan potatoes, salt, water and cottonseed oil the way we did when we first started. And cottonseed oil is not like any other oil — it doesn’t leave an aftertaste, it enhances the taste of the product. It gives the potato a better flavor,” said Cipriano.
Growing the family business
“It was hard going in the early days,” Cipriano recalled of his time spent growing up in the business. “We weren’t a big company, we were just family owned. They used to [make chips] on the side in kitchens, and then take the product to Belle Isle and sell them out of the back of the truck.”
Better Made Snack Foods has come a long way since then. Today, the company processes over 50 million pounds of potatoes each year — and makes tens of thousands of potato chip bags per day during its busiest times. Locals can catch a glimpse of fresh chips coming down the line through the street level windows at the production and distribution facility on Gratiot in Detroit.
Potatoes at Better Made Snack Foods go from bin to bag in just seven minutes. (Photo: GET Creative)
Making a bag of Better Made potato chips used to involve hours of tedious, manual work — from hauling 100-pound bags of potatoes to hand-cooking chips to stapling each individual bag shut. “Nowadays it takes seven minutes for the potato to go from bin to bag,” said Cipriano. “The first couple of minutes are the washing and peeling of the potato. Then they go into frying, which takes three minutes from one end to the other. Then they go conveyer up to the various package machines. The flavoring is added, and then it goes to packaging.”
Distribution has also evolved to meet the demands of Michigan’s loyal Better Made fan base. “We started selling at Meijer in the 80s when there were only three or four Meijer stores in the area, and as they’ve expanded, we’ve expanded with them,” said Cipriano. “Working with suppliers like Meijer helps both of us — they get into a lot of areas we couldn’t.”
At Better Made Snack Foods, employees are treated like part of the family. (Photo: GET Creative)
But for Cipriano, it’s not the company’s volume or footprint that defines success. “I don’t want to be known as the biggest company in the world, other people can go that way. I want to make the best product we can and do the best service we can. I want to be known as the best company. No matter what size we are — as long as we’re known as the best,” he said.
Being the best has as much to do with the product Better Made puts out as it does the people the company employs. “Meijer is a great company. They are family-owned and they have a lot of high principles in their way of doing business – it’s very similar to us.” said Cipriano. “We treat everybody like family here. The reason why we have longevity with our employees is because they’re not a number to us. We know everybody, and we treat them like this is their company. You’ve got to work with good people and good products.”
To find Better Made Snack Foods and products from other local vendors, visit a Meijer near you.
Read The Source Article
DETROIT (AP) -- From the yellow Better Made building sitting among a clutch of convenience stores, car lots and storefront churches comes an unexpected aroma familiar to decades of Detroiters: salt, hot grease and fried potatoes.
A family-owned enterprise that started in a garage next to a bar, today it is one of only two chip companies left in the city. This August it celebrates 70 years.
Along his office wall, Sam Cipriano, the son of one of the founders, has old potato chip canisters, representing some of the 20-some chipmakers that used to call Detroit home.
"As a kid I remember when this used to be the warehouse right here outside my door," says Cipriano, 60, sitting in his small office, crammed with old photos and bag designs.
"The potatoes used to come in sacks and they'd stack 'em all up along on the other side of that wall there and … I'd climb up there and everybody'd yell at me," he says.
In August 1930, friends Cross Moceri and Peter Cipriano formed Cross & Peters Co. on the east side of Detroit, where much of the automotive industry was established.
"Over here it was the Italian town and my father and (Moceri) were from the same town in Sicily and they moved the plant here to draw in the Italian community to work for them," says Cipriano, a company vice president.
The company settled on its current east side location near City Airport in the 1940s, with a farmer for a neighbor.
Today there's no sign of farmland. The east side of Detroit isn't thriving like it did during the auto boom; many of the buildings near the plant are run-down and some neighboring homes are boarded up. The people and their work have fled to the suburbs.
But Cipriano and Chris Moceri, a company vice president and grandnephew of Cross Moceri, say they never have considered taking their 150 jobs out of Detroit. They like the area and the community. They grew up here.
This is where Better Made has made a name for itself. About 75 percent of its business comes from sales in southeast Michigan.
"We have a nice brand following from customers. … People that have grown up with Better Made are loyal," Cipriano says.
But keeping a family business going can be tough, especially with competition from No. 1 chipmaker Frito Lay, which had about $12.6 billion in net sales last year. Frito Lay, a division of PepsiCo Inc., has more than half of all chip sales nationwide. In southeast Michigan, it has $29.4 million of the $42.1 million of supermarket potato chip sales. Better Made accounts for $7.3 million in sales.
"You have Frito Lay and then you have everyone else," says Dan Malovany, editor of Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery magazine.
Yet here, of the top five chip varieties, Better Made special and regular potato chips hold third- and fourth-place. Frito Lay holds the other three spots.
Moceri attributes the chip's local popularity to the product's freshness. Better Made uses Michigan potatoes during about nine months of the year, relying on potatoes from other parts of the country the rest of the time.
"Potatoes that we get today will be chips today. … Sometimes they come right from the ground," says Moceri, 45.
Most of the plant is automated. Once the potatoes -- about 200,000 pounds per day -- are washed and peeled, they come down the conveyor belt, past an inspector who plucks out the bad ones.
Sliced and cooked in cottonseed oil, the chips continue down the line, where inspectors eyeball them on their way up to get bagged. As Moceri walks by the line, he picks up a bad chip and tosses it aside.
"I try not to eat the chips, I really do, because if I eat one, I'll eat more than one," he says, laughing. The chips are made in the older part of the plant, with its red and yellow decor similar to that of a bag of Better Made chips.
Better Made's chip line consists of regular, barbecue, sour cream, sour cream and cheddar, salt and vinegar, no salt, wavy, and new this year, sweet barbecue.
It also sells pretzels, cheese corn, popcorn, cheese puffs, tortilla chips, party mix and carmel corn
Moceri says he hopes to see a few new products in the future and the company is looking to expand into northern Ohio.
"I think we're going to be more aggressive. … We'll see if the consumers want certain flavors," he says. "One of the problems is you can only manufacture certain products and do it right.
"Well, if we can't do it right, we're not going to do it all."
It can be a struggle to stay competitive. In the beginning, Better Made sold its chips in a public park and the bar next door. Today, it has to fight to get space.
Some retailers charge a fee, called a slotting allowance, in exchange for shelf space, says Grocery Manufacturers of America spokeswoman Lisa Allen. Allen says it can be unfair for smaller companies if the fee is too high for the companies to make a profit.
But Malovany says independent companies can survive, as long as they find their strengths and "don't try to compete in someone else's ball game."
Better Made's game is in convenience stores and corner groceries, where space is easier to come by, Cipriano says. Detroit's other chipmaker, Uncle Ray's, has a smaller distribution, selling its products mainly in local convenience stores.
"Yes they are competing against Frito Lay, but then they're providing more of an alternative for the retailer and the consumer," Malovany says. "People want choice out there."
According to the Snack Food Association, 15 percent of its 95 U.S. members are family-owned businesses. And Frito Lay says it takes local competition seriously.
"Regional competition is very tough. There's a lot of brand loyalty to the hometown team," spokeswoman Lynn Markley says. "There are many, many regional snack companies that compete against us quite well."
For the 70th anniversary, Better Made will dress up its chips with a special bag. Otherwise, Cipriano's and Moceri's plans for the business will stay the same -- slow, steady growth in a field they know well.
"So many family owned businesses, they give up," Cipriano says. "We've got third-generation in here."
On the Net: Better Made, http://www.bmchips.com/
Copyright 2001. Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Read Source Article
In 1930, two entrepreneurial Detroiters and Sicilian immigrants, Cross Moceri and Peter Cipriano, became partners in a potato chip business first known as Cross & Peter Company.
The name was changed to Better Made when the Ciprianos bought out the Moceri family.
The business moved from its home operation to East McDougall Street where their success took hold. The company had retail branches throughout the city, some next door to movie theaters, at a time when concession stands were unknown.
Chips were first sold in hand-stapled bags of waxed paper, sometimes hawked door-to-door or from stands on Belle Isle. In the mid-1940s the company moved to a spot on Woodward Avenue near the Fox Theatre. After World War II, needing room for expansion, they settled into their current location on Gratiot Avenue between Harper Avenue and French Road.
At one time there were over 20 potato chip manufacturers in Detroit. The New Era company merged with Frito in 1958, who merged with Lay in 1961. To compete with national brands, Better Made produced its first flavored chip, barbecue, in 1973, with a sour cream chip & onion chip following.
Over time Better Made has diversified its products, offering different cuts in numerous flavors. The plant also makes several types of corn chips, pork rinds, popcorn, pretzels, cheese puffs, dips and salsas.
Related: Check out a book by Karen Dybis on the history of Better Made.
How it's made
Better Made became not only a brand name but a way of doing business. Even in the early days of the company, only the best ingredients and methods were used.
At first, production was simple. Burlap bagged, select potatoes were cooked in the best oil available, weighed, and hand packed into crude, greaseless bags. Distribution was chiefly through the company's own store outlets, which later grew into small delivery routes.
Today, Better Made uses 60 million pounds of chip potatoes every year and the entire process is a little more complex. The potatoes are purchased in bulk (45,000 to 85,000 pounds per truck load) and unloaded from delivery trucks which are lifted by a hydraulic lift. The potatoes are then transported by conveyors to storage bins.
As needed the potatoes are automatically conveyed to the fryers where they are washed, peeled, sliced, and inspected. Next, the potato slices are conveyed to temperature-controlled cookers where only 100% cottonseed oil is used.
The cooked chips are then lightly salted and automatically advanced by an overhead vibrating conveyor system to automatic packaging machines that weigh, form, fill, and seal the finished bags.
Better Made's over 85 years of progress have all been made in Detroit, using Michigan potatoes for ten months of the year and drawing from Mother Nature's harvest schedule in Florida, Missouri, Indiana, North Dakota, Minnesota, or wherever the best potatoes are available for the remainder of the year.
Watch Alex Atwell's Uniquely Detroit feature story on Better Made in the video player above.
Want to check out the factory? Tours are available here.
Take a scroll through Better Made history below:
Sources: Better Made, Detroit Historical Museum
Copyright 2019 by WDIV ClickOnDetroit - All rights reserved.
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Workers on the line at the Better Made Chip factory circa 1980
Monitoring the production process and key environmental details that ensure Potato Chip quality circa 1980
Michigan is the state that produces the most potatoes that are used in chips. Michigan Potatoes is the Trade Association. It is excited to announce the first in its series of Industry Profiles video highlighting all the various aspects of the potato industry in the state. In our first video we visited Better Made Snack Foods educating consumers on how Michigan Potatoes are an integral part of one of their favorite snacks.
View the video at: