Michigan potato chip company Downey’s continues upward trend
Downey’s Potato Chips was started 37 years ago in Waterford, Michigan, by the family that gave the company its namesake.
From its humble beginnings selling freshly fried kettle chips made in small batches from its storefront, the business had customers lining up to indulge in their crispy, crunchy goodness. After a few years, the chips became so popular that the business outgrew its small shop and moved to its current facility, investing in commercial processing equipment to satisfy demand.
To produce Downey’s Potato Chips, the company sources Michigan-produced potatoes that are then peeled and carved of imperfections, sliced and cooked. For the peeling step, Downey’s uses a Vanmark peeling machine. Due to its continued growth and plans for the future, the company recently upgraded to the 1820 model, a compact yet high-quality peeler.
The new Vanmark peeling machine has allowed Downey’s to double its throughput in the same amount of time. The manufacturer used to be able to peel and wash about 1,000 pounds of potatoes per hour. The new machine can peel and wash 1,000 pounds of potatoes in under 30 minutes.
“The quicker we can peel, the faster we can get to frying,” said Kali Bagley, general manager of Downey’s Potato Chips. “The faster we can get to frying, the quicker we can get to packaging. And the faster we can get to packaging, the more bags of chips we can produce during our working hours.”
They can now process more potatoes each day, produce more bags of chips and send out more to their retail partners. Producing more chips allows Downey room for growth as it can take on the demand of more stores.
“It makes us capable of taking on as many stores as we could dream of, which just wasn’t possible before,” Bagley said. “Knowing our throughput per hour has doubled gives us the confidence to take on more stores knowing that we can deliver on the demand that will come with them.”
Previously, the company had a Vanmark peeling machine that had served them well since the business began. “Of course, since she was trusty for 40 years, we thought it was best to go with Vanmark again, and it has been a really good choice,” Bagley continued.
“The relationship with Vanmark and how the whole process of being walked through everything from the old machine to the new one has been absolutely wonderful,” said Bagley. “You need a team that’s there with you, that knows what they’re doing, that puts out awesome equipment that’s reliable. When you have peace of mind in that area, it makes everything else so easy.”
Downey’s is still located in Waterford, which is northwest of Detroit.
Michigan is the top producer of potatoes for chip processing in the U.S.