Here's How Potato Chips Made Their Way To Store Shelves

We've all been there... casually strolling through the grocery store, checking off each essential item on our list. And then, before you know it, you find yourself smack dab in the middle of the salty snacks aisle. You're surrounded by a seemingly endless number of potato chip brands, all of which look mighty appetizing. "Ah, what the heck?!" you ask yourself as you toss three bags into your cart. After all, potato chips are the perfect indulgence: they're crispy, crunchy, salty, versatile, and downright fun to eat.

Potato chips have been a staple of parties, picnics, movie marathons, vending machines, and lunchboxes for nearly a century. In fact, in 2020, nearly 35 million Americans consumed 16 or more bags of potato chips, according to Statista. And the potato chip industry's revenue in 2022 is already measuring at a whopping $10.6 billion, according to IBISWorld. That's a lot of spuds. Few people may know, however, that when they were first invented, potato chips were solely available in restaurants for several years before they even appeared on market shelves. The potato chip's history is as flavorful as one could imagine.

It took potato chips more than 40 years to be bagged and sold in stores

As the story goes, potato chips, like many other foods we know and love, were invented by accident. Back in 1853, Chef George Crum was working at Moon's Lake House in Sarasota Springs, New York when a then-famous customer paid a visit to the restaurant. According to Smithsonian, Cornelius Vanderbilt — a wealthy railroad and shipping magnate, and eventually the founder of Vanderbilt University in Nashville — demanded his fried potatoes be remade to his liking, claiming they were too thick. A peeved Crum complied, slicing the potatoes so thinly that, when fried, they became brittle. Much to everyone's surprise, the affluent patron loved it, and the invention became an instant hit. "Saratoga Chips" were served out of baskets on dining tables at Crum's establishments for decades.

A little more than 40 years later, potato chips made their way to marketplaces. In 1895, William Tappenden, a man from Cleveland, Ohio became the world's first independent potato chip vendor, according to Tappenden would deliver his homemade chips to local stores via horse-drawn carriage, which allowed customers to enjoy the crispy goodness at home rather than only while dining out. As the snack's popularity began to rise, potato chips became even more accessible. In 1926, a Californian named Laura Scudder became known for selling "the noisiest chips in the world," which were packaged in wax-paper bags and had an expiration date, per Smithsonian. Thanks to these entrepreneurial minds, we can now enjoy this crunchy, salty snack any time we desire.